From Hungarian zero to Twitter hero
Grand Prix racing is a serious business but there has to be room for a bit of humour sometimes. And probably one of the funniest moments in Formula 1 history took place at the Hungarian Grand Prix just over 20 years ago.
Please step forward Mr Taki Inoue, Twitter hero and the author of one of the best slapstick comedy routines ever to grace Formula 1. He’s still funny now: just check out @takiinoue – which is one of the best Twitter accounts out there, even if you don’t speak Japanese.
The year was 1995, a time when depth of talent often took second place to depth of wallet. The smaller teams in particular regularly ran the equivalent of a bring and buy sale: bring us some cash and buy a drive, on a race-by-race basis if you like. As a result, some of them got through more drivers than your average haulage company.
One of these high-speed journeymen was Takachiho Inoue, a man who even the quite slow Ukyo Katayama once described as “rubbish.”
Taki himself was the first to agree, reflecting on his grand prix career in the following way: “You never need to ask who was the worst Formula 1 driver ever. It was definitely me.”
Vigyazz! (*“Look out!” in Hungarian)
Throughout his 18 races for Simtek and Footwork in 1994 and 1995, he only finished five times: the best result being eighth in Italy 1995. However, it was in Hungary where Inoue pulled off the best stunt of his memorable career.
Having qualified in a brilliant (for him) 20th place, his race soon came to an end when the engine of his Footwork- Arrows died on lap 14. No surprise there. He pulled off at the side of the road and jumped out. But there was a delay in the marshals getting some fire extinguishers onto the steaming car. Inoue ran towards the barriers to help and that’s when the trouble started. Absorbed in his task, he failed to notice an ironically named ‘rescue’ car racing towards the steaming Arrows. The inevitable happened and the unfortunate Inoue was sent flying – injuring his leg, but not badly enough to prevent him taking part in the next grand prix, where he finished a brave 12th.
“Bang! Someone hit me very hard,” remembered the Japanese driver, recalling the moment he was stricken by what appeared to be a Moskvitch: a truly ignominious fate for a driver at the cutting edge of motorsport. “But I landed on my feet: perfect landing. I think 9.9 marks out of 10.”
Not so safety car
Unbelievably, Inoue already had form for this sort of thing. It was actually the second time he had been hit by a safety car that year. During free practice at the 1995 Monaco Grand Prix, he somehow managed to come together with the safety car, leaving him concussed. For his own good, the Japanese driver’s F1 career thankfully came to an end when the season finished.
After Kimi Raikkonen had a load of T-shirts made in 2012 with “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing” printed on them post Abu Dhabi, Taki suggested marketing his own tribute range of similar shirts: “Don’t leave me alone, I have no idea what I’m doing.”
In his own way, Inoue was truly touched by greatness.