Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Tomiko Yoshikawa

Tomiko in 1993

Tomiko Yoshikawa raced sportscars in both Europe and Japan in the 1990s, including at Le Mans. She also competed in single-seaters up to Formula 3 level in Japan, from 1980 onwards.

She was born in Nagoya in 1954. Her first involvement with motorsport seems to have been a couple of races in Japanese Formula 3, in 1980. She made another guest appearance in the series in 1981, before committing to a bigger race programme in 1982.

1983 was her best season in Japanese F3. She was tenth overall. In 1984, she scored more points, but was eleventh. Both times, she was driving a Japanese-built Hayashi-Toyota.

It was in about 1985 that she switched to sportscars. Initially, she raced at her home circuit of Fuji, in the Fuji Grand Champion Series. Her car was a BMW-engined MCS 5, run by Maribu Motorsport. She entered three of the four rounds, with a best finish of sixteenth in the opening round, the 300km race in March. In 1986, she entered the first round of the FGC again in the MCS, but did not finish. Unfortunately, she was involved in a multi-car crash on the sixth lap, which brought out a red flag. She does not appear to have raced again for quite a while afterwards. There is little easily accessible information about this accident, although Tomiko may have been injured, causing her absence.

She returned to the circuits in 1988. This year, she drove in her first Suzuka 1000km. Her car was a Hiro HRS3, shared with Kouzou Okumura. They did not finish.

The following year, she did some more endurance racing in the All-Japan Sports Prototype Championship, in the Fuji race this time. She got to the finish in her Group C Mazda 757, but was not classified. Her team-mates were Kazuhiko Oda and Keiichi Mizutani.

After another break in 1990, she returned to the All-Japan Prototype series in a Spice SE90C. This was the start of quite a lengthy associated between Gordon Spice’s team and Tomiko. She narrowly missed out on a Le Mans start with the Euro Racing setup, which was running an all-female Spice team in a pink car. Although her entry was accepted initially, she was prevented from starting due to not having the appropriate license upgrade. Tomiko practised, but Desiré Wilson, Cathy Muller and Lyn St. James were chosen for the race itself. The team’s race ended quite abruptly anyway, in a crash.

Back in Japan, she drove the same car for the Aoshima Tsunemasa team in the Fuji 1000km. She and her team-mates, Hideshi Matsuda and Hideo Fukuyama, did not finish, due to an engine problem.

Tomiko raced at Le Mans three times, in 1992, 1993 and 1994. Her best result was in 1992, when she finished 15th in a Chamberlain Spice SE88C, although she had not driven enough laps for official classification. The all-female team had originally been built around her, and as she did not get to drive in 1991, she was placed in a mixed team for 1992, with Kenta Shimamura and Jun Harada.
In 1993, she had to retire in a Courage C30 after an accident, and in 1994, she was unclassified again, in a Porsche, in 22nd place.

At the same time, she did secure some successes in other events. She was seventh in the 1992 Suzuka 1000km, the second of her thirteen runs in the Japanese classic. Again, she was driving the Chamberlain Spice, and her co-drivers were Divina Galica and Jun Harada.

Chamberlain gave her another drive in the Suzuka 1000km in 1993, in a Lotus Esprit, but she did not finish due to the car overheating. She and her team-mates had qualified eleventh. Earlier in the year, she had raced a Tom Gloy Racing Ford Mustang in the Daytona 24 Hours. This was another mixed team, with Desiré Wilson, Ron Fellows and Peter Baljet. They were classified 47th, but did not finish.

In 1994, she had a run in the Suzuka 1000km in a Ferrari F40, with Anders Olofsson and Luciano della Noce. They were disqualified for an illegal overtaking manoeuvre.

1995 saw her have a final chance at Le Mans, driving a Toyota-engined SARD MC8-R with Kenny Acheson and Alain Ferté. However, it was not to be. Tomiko did not qualify, and as in 1991, the team did not last long anyway, succumbing to clutch failure after 14 laps. Unfortunately, the Suzuka 1000km went the same way. Tomiko was listed as a driver alongside Fabien Giroix and Jean-Denis Delétraz, but did not make the start. The team also did not finish.

After that, she did not race in Europe again. She continued to make appearances in the Suzuka 1000km, driving for a number of teams, including Roock Racing in 1996 and 1999, in Porsches both times. Other cars she raced included another McLaren F1 (1997) and a Nissan Skyline (2002 and 2003).

Her best result in this race was ninth, which she achieved in 2004, driving a Porsche 996 for the Arktech team. Her team-mates were Shigemitsu Haga and Tamon Saitou.

She retired from motorsport in 2005. Language barriers have prevented more detailed research about Tomiko’s life and career.

(Image from http://www.les24heures.fr/)

1 comment:

  1. Tomiko certainly drove a wide variety of different cars in her starts in the Suzuka 1000km race!