- March 10, 1955
- Not Active
Toshio Suzuki is a Japanese former racing driver who achieved lots of success in different motorsport disciplines not only in Japan but also in the international competitions.
He was a Japanese champion four times in four different championships – Formula 3, Formula 3000, Japanese Touring Car Championship and Japanese Sports Prototype Championship. Outside Japan, he participated twelve times at 24 Hours of Le Mans, reaching second place overall (and first in GTP class) in 1999. He was also the winner at Daytona 24 Hours in 1992.
Suzuki also recorded two starts in the Formula One World Championship in 1993, driving for Larrousse at Japanese and Australian Grand Prix. Suzuki even made one start in NASCAR, participating in one race of Busch Series in 1996.
Karting and Formula 3 champion early in a career
Born in March 1955, Toshio Suzuki successfully started his racing career in karting competitions, winning the Japanese championship two times in 1975 and 1976. He then made a step further to formula racing, taking his first championship title in 1979 by winning the Japanese Formula 3.
In the following years, Suzuki continued to race in Japan but also in the British Formula 3 with March Racing. In 1983, he intensified his sports car racing activities, driving an MCS2-Mazda in the Fuji in national sports car events.
Le Mans 24h debut in 1985
In 1984, Suzuki raced in Japanese Formula 2 and in the Japanese Sports-Prototype Championship with Panasport's LM 04C-Nissan, also participating in FIA WEC's round at Fuji. In 1985, he completely switched to prototype racing, driving a Dome 85C-Toyota for Dome Motorsport or Porsche 956 for Alpha Cubic Racing Team.
In June 1985, Suzuki made a debut at 24 Hours of Le Mans, sharing the #38 Dome 85C-Toyota with Eje Elgh and Geoff Lees. A broken clutch stopped them after 141 laps. A year later, Suzuki returned to Le Mans with Dome Team, driving a Dome 86C-Toyota and retiring after 296 laps.
Two Le Mans starts with Nissan factory team
In the following years, Suzuki was combining touring car races, Formula 3000 and sports prototypes. He recorded two starts with Nissan factory team at Le Mans 24 Hours in 1989 and 1990.
In 1989, he was sharing the #23 Nissan R89C with Masahiro Hasemi and Kazuyoshi Hoshino, not finishing the race. In 1990, the same crew finished in the fifth place in the #23 Nissan R90CP.
Japanese touring car champion in 1990
In 1990, as a member of Nissan's factory squad, Suzuki was driving a Nissan Skyline GT-R for Team Impul in the Japanese Touring Car Championship. He and Kazuyoshi Hoshino were the race winners five times in six races, dominantly taking the championship title.
In the same year, Suzuki and Hoshino finished second in the Japanese Sports-Prototype Championship, tied in the points with champions from their own team Masahiro Hasemi and Anders Olofsson.
Japanese sports-prototype endurance champion in 1991
Next year, in 1991, Toshio Suzuki and Kazuyoshi Hoshino managed to win a title in the Japanese Sports-Prototype Endurance Championship after scoring three wins in the #23 Nissan R91CP, beating the opponents from Toyota by just two points.
They were also among the front-runners in the 1991 Japanese Touring Car Championship, winning three races and finishing second in the points, losing a title to Masahiro Hasemi and Anders Olofsson.
Formula 3000 vice-champion in 1992
During his years with Nissan, Suzuki was also a regular competitor in the Japanese Formula 3000 Championship but without any success, rarely scoring points.
It all changed in 1992 when he scored two wins and two more podiums in Universal Racing's Lola-Cosworth, finishing second in the championship behind Italian Mauro Martini.
Victory at 1992 Daytona 24 Hours
In the same season, Suzuki scored a sensational overall victory at Daytona 24 Hours, sharing the #23 Nissan R91CP with Masahiro Hasemi and Kazuyoshi Hoshino. The all-Japanese crew defeated rivals in a Jaguar XJR-12 by nine laps.
In 1992, Suzuki was also a vice-champion in the Japanese Sports-Prototype Championship, finishing second behind his teammate Kazuyoshi Hoshino.
Fourth place at 1993 Le Mans 24h with Toyota
In 1993, Suzuki was competing with Universal Racing in the Formula 3000 and with Nismo in the Japanese Touring Car Championship. He won one F3000 race to finish fifth in the points. In touring car races, he was a winner once in a Nissan Skyline GT-R, finishing third in the points.
In June 1993, Suzuki returned to Le Mans, joining Toyota Team Tom's alongside Eddie Irvine and Masanori Sekiya. They finished fourth in the #36 Toyota TS010, behind three Peugeots.
Two Formula One starts with Larrousse
Toshio Suzuki had an opportunity to race against Formula 1 stars in the last two rounds of the 1993 F1 Championship, replacing Philippe Alliot in the #19 Larrousse LH93-Lamborghini.
Suzuki made an F1 debut in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit. Starting 23rd, he finished 12th, two laps behind a race winner Ayrton Senna (McLaren). Two weeks later, Suzuki was driving the #19 Larrousse in the Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide, starting 24th and finishing 14th, five laps behind race winner Senna.
Japanese Formula 3000 champion in 1995
Suzuki's F1 career ended after two races and he returned to his versatile racing schedule in Japan, driving a Nissan Skyline GT-R in the Japanese GT Championship, Nissan Sunny in the Japanese Touring Car Championship, Lola-Cosworth in the F3000 Championship and Nissan Skyline GT-R LM at Le Mans 24 Hours.
In 1995, he added one more championship title to his account, winning the Japanese Formula 3000 Championship with Hoshino Racing, scoring two wins and three more podiums in a Lola-Mugen Honda.
He stayed for two more seasons in the Japanese premier open-wheel competition, which was renamed to Formula Nippon in 1996. He was 12th in the points in 1996 and 13th in 1997.
One-off NASCAR attempt ended with a crash
In May 1996, Toshio Suzuki made an unusual trip to the United States, recording one start in NASCAR Busch Series. He participated in the Meridian Advantage 200 race at Nazareth Speedway, driving the #9 Mooneyes Chevrolet for Joe Bessey Motorsports. He raced for 165 laps before having a crash, suffering a concussion. He was classified 33rd among 42 racers.
Le Mans podium in a Toyota GT-One
Suzuki joined Toyota in 1997 to drive the #37 Toyota Supra in the Japanese GT Championship, sharing a car with Masanori Sekiya and finishing third in the points of GT500 class. In the 1998 GT championship, his co-driver was Kelvin Burt and they finished ninth in the points.
In 1998, Suzuki also joined Toyota factory team at Le Mans, finishing 9th in the #27 Toyota GT-One together with Keiichi Tsuchiya and Ukyo Katayama. Next year, the same trio returned to Le Mans in the #3 Toyota GT-One, finishing second overall and the first in GTP class. In 1999, Suzuki was also sharing a Toyota Supra with Katayama in the Japanese GT Championship, finishing in the ninth place.
Retiring from full-time racing at the end of 2000
The season 2000 was the last for Toshio Suzuki. He spent it in the Japanese Super GT Championship, sharing the #37 Toyota Supra with Seiji Ara.
Outside GT championship, Suzuki was driving Yellow Magic Ferrari F355 at Daytona 24 Hours (DNF) and TV Asahi Team Dragon's Panoz LMP-1 Roadster S at Le Mans 24 Hours, finishing sixth together with Masami Kageyama and Masahiko Kageyama.
In 2001, Suzuki pulled out from full-time racing, recording just two starts in a Yellow Magic Ferrari at Daytona 24 Hours and Suzuka 1000 Kilometers. Seven years later, in June 2008, he appeared one more time at Le Mans, driving the #22 Courage LC70 for Tokai University/YGK Power.
Photos: Toyota, Eric Gilbert,