- June 13, 1966
- Super Taikyu
- Saitama Toyopet Green Brave
Naoki Hattori is a Japanese former racing driver who participated in different racing disciplines, including an attempt in Formula One. He entered two F1 Grand Prix events with Coloni in 1991, failing to qualify for both races. In 1997, he was a test driver for Dome F1 team which never entered an F1 Championship.
In other open-wheel competitions, Hattori was Japanese F3 champion in 1990 and spent thirteen seasons in the Japanese Formula 3000/Formula Nippon, finishing best as a vice-champion in 1996 and 2001. He also spent two seasons in the Indy Lights Series and raced on a part-time schedule with Walker Racing in the 1999 CART Championship.
Outside open-wheel racing, Hattori gained some success in touring car and sports car racing. In 1991, he won 24 Hours of Spa in a Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R, together with David Brabham and Anders Olofsson. Five years later, in 1996, he was Japanese touring car champion with Honda Accord. In the Japanese GT Championship, Hattori's best result was the second place in 1996 with McLaren F1 GTR.
Japanese Formula 3 champion early in a career
Born in June 1966 in Tokyo, Naoki Hattori started his racing career in 1988, driving a Ralt-Volkswagen in the Japanese Formula 3 Championship and Honda Civic in the Asia-Pacific Touring Car Championship.
After scoring one podium in his debut F3 season, Hattori scored one victory in 1989 and then three wins in 1990, becoming the Formula 3 champion. In his victorious season, he was driving a Ralt-Honda for Cox Racing Team.
Victory at Spa 24 Hours in 1991
In 1990, Hattori also raced with Honda Civic in the Japanese Touring Car Championship and made a debut at Spa 24 Hours with Team Zexel's Nissan Skyline GT-R, finishing in 12th place.
A year later, Hattori returned to Spa in Team Zexel's #25 Nissan Skyline GT-R, winning the race together with David Brabham and Anders Olofsson. In the same year, Hattori also raced in JTCC and Formula 3000, but without any success.
Unexpected debut in Formula 1, two DNQs in two attempts
In 1991, near the end of the season, Hattori had an unexpected debut in Formula One. He was invited by Italian team Coloni as a late-season replacement for Pedro Chaves in the #31 Coloni C4-Cosworth.
In October, Hattori made an F1 debut in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit, failing to qualify for the race. He was the slowest in pre-qualifying. Two weeks later, Hattori had one more unsuccessful F1 attempt in the Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide Street Circuit. He was again the slowest driver in the pre-qualifying.
Collecting victories in Japanese championships
In 1992, Hattori continued a career with a double programme in the Japanese Formula 3000 with Cox Racing and in the Japanese Touring Car Championship with Mooncraft's Honda Civic. He scored one victory in each championship, finishing fifth in F3000 and third in JTCC. In 1993, he was without wins in Formula 3000 and Class 3 champion in the JTCC with four wins.
In 1994, Hattori expanded his programme to Japanese GT Championship, driving a Nissan Silvia for Mooncraft. In the JTCC, he continued to drive Honda Civic for Mooncraft while in Formula 3000, he joined Team LeMans.
Le Mans 24h debut in 1995 with Honda NSX GT1
In 1995, Hattori was active again in the JTCC and F3000 but also recorded two starts in the International Formula 3000. The highlight of the season was his debut in world's greatest race - the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
He was driving the #46 Honda NSX GT1 for Honda factory team, sharing a car with Hideki Okada and Philippe Favre. They completed 121 laps, not being classified in official results.
Japanese touring car champion in 1996
In 1996, Hattori added one more championship title to his account, winning the Japanese Touring Car Championship with Mooncraft's Honda Accord. He was a race winner five times in twelve races.
He also raced in the Japanese round of the International Touring Car Championship with JAS Engineering's Alfa Romeo 155.
Vice-champion in GT championship and Formula Nippon
The season 1996 was pretty successful for Hattori in other championships. He won three races in the Japanese GT Championship with Team Lark's McLaren F1 GTR, finishing as a vice-champion together with Ralf Schumacher. They lost a title to teammates David Brabham and John Nielsen.
Hattori also won two races in the Formula Nippon, what was a new name for Formula 3000, finishing second in the championship behind his Team LeMans colleague Ralf Schumacher.
Test driver for Dome F1 team
Besides his many commitments in different racing competitions in 1996, Hattori also worked for Dome F1 Team as a test driver of their F105 F1 car, together with Shinji Nakano and Marco Apicella.
After many tests during the season, a lack of sponsorship forced Dome to cancel their F1 programme. Hattori decided to accept a new challenge and went to the US in 1997.
Two seasons in the Indy Lights Series
In 1997, Naoki Hattori joined Team Green to race in the Indy Lights Series. His best result was the fifth place at Savannah and he finished 16th in the final standings. In 1997, he made a one-off appearance in the Japanese Touring Car Championship, scoring two podiums in two races.
In 1998, Hattori continued to compete with Team Green, significantly improving his results. He was on a podium three times, finishing third at Long Beach and Trois Rivieres, and second at Toronto. At the end of the season, he was 10th in the points.
Eight starts in the CART Championship
In 1999, Naoki Hattori made a step up to CART FedEx Championship, joining Walker Racing to drive #15 Reynard-Honda. He crashed out in the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and then returned in the 13th round at Detroit.
In total, Hattori recorded eight starts in CART Championship, finishing best in 14th place at Laguna Seca and scoring no points. It's interesting that there was one more Japanese driver in the CART Championship that year - Shigeaki Hattori. Naoki and Shigeaki are not relatives.
Returning to Japan in 2000, Formula Nippon vice-champion in 2001
Naoki returned to Japan in 2000, having a double programme with Honda. He was driving Honda NSX for Team Kunimitsu in the GT Championship, not scoring wins or podiums, and Reynard-Honda for Team 5Zigen in Formula Nippon, scoring one podium to finish 8th in the points.
In 2001, Hattori was a race winner three times in the #5 Reynard-Honda, finishing second in Formula Nippon classification, behind Satoshi Motoyama. In GT Championship, Hattori raced with two teams (Impul and Hitotsuyama) and two cars (Nissan GT-R and McLaren F1 GTR) but without any success.
Hattori stayed one more season with Team 5Zigen, finishing 8th in Formula Nippon without wins and podiums. In GT Championship, he scored one podium with Hitotsuyama Racing's McLaren F1 GTR.
Three Formula Nippon seasons with Dandelion Racing
For the 2003 Formula Nippon season, Hattori joined Docomo Team Dandelion Racing to drive the #41 Lola-Mugen. With just three points on his account, he finished 13th in the final classification.
Hattori spent two more seasons with Dandelion Racing, scoring one podium in each season. In 2004, he was second at Sepand and finished ninth in finals standings. In 2005, he was third at Twin Ring Motegi, finishing 12th in the points of his last Formula Nippon season.
Racing in Super GT Series until 2007
Parallel to his commitments with Dandelion Racing, Hattori was driving Toyota Supra for Kraft Project in the Japanese GT Championship. He was without wins or podiums in 2003, then scored one podium in 2004 and one podium in 2005. Hattori's co-driver was Shigekazu Wakisaka, who was replaced by Peter Dumbreck in the second part of 2005.
In 2006, after leaving Formula Nippon, Hattori stayed with Team Kraft in the Super GT Series, sharing the #35 Lexus SC430 with Peter Dumbreck. They won at Fuji and finished ninth in the final points. Hattori's last full season in the Super GT Series was 2007 when he was sharing the #35 Lexus with Peter Dumbreck (seven races) and Ronnie Quintarelli (three races).
Since his retirement from full-time racing, Hattori occasionally participated in different endurance races, such are Nurburgring 24 Hours or Sepang 12 Hours, or in Japanese Super Taikyu series, but also worked as a motoring journalist.
Photos: Getty Images, Wikipedia,