Lap Time: 2:00.800 min.
In 1967, the daredevil artist's son Tetsu Ikuzawa breaks the lap record at Fuji Speedway in a rented Porsche 906 Carrera 6. The Japanese is rewarded with a spot on the Porsche factory team.
In the mid-1960s, Japan is an emerging industrial and automobile nation. In 1966, a special international sports venue opens around 120 kilometers southwest of Tokyo: the Fuji Speedway. Two years before, Tokyo had been the venue for the Summer Olympics, and in 2021 the games are to be held once again in the Japanese capital.
Fuji Speedway is a spectacular high-speed circuit. A straight stretch of roughly 1.5 kilometers is followed by a full-throttle right-hand bend with a thirty-degree banking. Every traverse of this undulating steep face—called Daiichi—is a foolhardy flirtation with fate. But that doesn’t bother young Tetsu Ikuzawa. The artist’s son from Tokyo is a natural. He was the first Japanese driver to make the leap into Britain’s Formula Three. To finance the season there, he hopes to win the 1967 Japanese Grand Prix’s attractive prize money of 1.75 million yen (about US$5,000 at the time). He rents a Porsche 906 Carrera 6 from the importer Mitsuwa. The road-legal race car from Zuffenhausen with its two-liter, six-cylinder engine is ideal for the course. Ikuzawa takes pole position after a fantastic lap time of under two minutes.
The race will be a breathtaking duel between Ikuzawa and Tadashi Sakai, who’s also at the wheel of a Porsche 906. Both drivers are twenty-four years old, highly talented, and extremely ambitious. They are regarded as national hopefuls. Sakai is off to a better start, but Ikuzawa wrestles him down and takes the lead until the eighteenth of sixty laps. Then Ikuzawa makes a fatal shifting error, selecting first gear instead of third. His inevitable spin puts Sakai in the lead, while Ikuzawa heads for the pit to refuel. Sakai follows a different racing strategy from that of his rival. He hopes, thanks to a more cautious driving style, to be able to make it over the 360-kilometer distance without refueling. Ikuzawa, on the other hand, does not have to pay attention to consumption, so he goes on the attack and overtakes Sakai again on the thirty-fourth lap. But four laps later, Sakai is in front again. Ikuzawa counterattacks at breakneck speed at the beginning of the monumental steep curve: he feints right, then surprises Sakai on the left at the top edge of the wall and pulls away. In the process, he manages to set a new race lap record—2:00.800 minutes!
For Sakai, the race ends in a rolllover, which he survives almost unharmed. Ikuzawa’s luck lies not only in winning prize money: after this bravura performance, he wins a spot on the Porsche factory team for the 1968 season.
May 3, 1967
Japanese Grand Prix
Fuji Speedway, Japan
5.999-kilometer circuit length
Tetsu Ikuzawa / Porsche 906 Carrera 6