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Tajima Becoming a Motorsport Legend in New Zealand

20 April 2004

“Monster” Tajima Becoming a Motorsport Legend in New Zealand

Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima, the undisputed champion of the annual “Race to the Sky” international hillclimb near Queenstown, is becoming something of a legend in New Zealand motorsport.

Tajima’s powerful Suzuki Escudo hillclimb special, based loosely on a Suzuki Grand Vitara, was unbeaten in the 2004 “Race to the Sky” run over the recent Easter weekend.

Despite appearing with an all-new body, Monster’s latest Suzuki was mechanically similar to the car that won him last year’s Queenstown event.

It was his fifth success for Suzuki in the classic 14.8 kilometre Central Otago gravel event, with Tajima displaying his prowess in the bright red and white twin turbocharged V6-engined speedster. Spectators were calling him “King of the Mountain”.

A week later the 53-year-old Japanese racing driver was still in New Zealand at the “Rally of New Zealand”, and he will be back in July to support the Rotorua Rally with a team of two Suzuki Ignis Sports.

Never short of enthusiasm, a delighted Tajima is already aiming for his sixth Race to the Sky win when he returns in 2005. Winning is something he simply does not tire of.

His 2.7 litre, 995 bhp four-wheel-drive Escudo, with unique steel spaceframe chassis and carbon and Kevlar composite body parts, stormed up the Cardrona Hill in 8 minutes 17.84 seconds. This was not as fast as his record-breaking run in 8 minutes 10.02 seconds set in the 2003 event, but still rapid enough to win the hillclimb.

A record crowd watched the flying 5.3 metre long Suzuki being handled with immense skill on the 1.524 metres (5,000 feet) climb to the summit.

Despite the ostentatious looks and huge reserves of power, the Tajima-inspired Escudo Vitara utilises many Suzuki production parts. The V6 engine, for example, is based on the same H27A power plant found in the standard Suzuki Grand Vitara XL-7.

Nicknamed long ago in Japan as “Monster”, the jovial man from Ishikawa has a wide and versatile role in motor racing and is the key figure behind the Suzuki Sport operation, the specialist Suzuki motor sport division which has a direct connection with the factory.

Much of the development in motor racing ultimately filters through to the line of high tech Suzuki Sport equipment, which is sold to enthusiastic owners. Spin-off includes upgrades on production models, like the high performance Ignis Sport three-door hatchback which is part of the Suzuki New Zealand product lineup.

Technology and data obtained from running modified Suzuki’s in competition is fed back into the next generation of racing and production models.

Tajima’s versatility sees him working behind the scene and out on the race and rally circuits in the front line.

His long-time experience and success has given him an awesome reputation in his own country where he has a high profile.

Monster also won the famed Pikes Peak hillclimb in the United States way back in 1993, driving a twin-engined Suzuki Swift.

He first appeared in New Zealand in July 1994 when he campaigned a Group A Suzuki Swift GTi in the “Rally of New Zealand”. It was the first time a “works” Suzuki had taken part in New Zealand’s premier rally.

Tajima had opened his motorsport career a decade earlier when he won the All Japan Dirt Trial series in 1983. He went on to win this championship no fewer than five times and also took out an international rallycross event in the USA.

In 1990 and 1991 Tajima won his class with a Swift in the gruelling “Rally Australia”, and the following year he was in the winning seat for the Japan Dirt Trial championship yet again.

Monster’s success in the latest “Race to the Sky” hillclimb is a continuation of a highly successful motor sport year for Suzuki. The emerging Ignis Sport rally car has been enjoying international success in Europe and Scandinavia, with Urmo Aava and P.G. Andersson each taking second-class placings in the Monte Carlo and Swedish Snow Rally events.

Not only that, but the Ignis Sport is proving to be the fastest of the smaller two-wheel-drive rally cars, and is a strong contender in the competitive Junior World Rally Championship which continues with the gravel road Acropolis Rally in June.

Tajima set the Ignis hatchback on the road to competition success when he drove a normally aspirated 1.6 litre version to first place in class in the Rally of China in November 2001. At the same time, the little Suzuki finished sixth overall and beat rivals with more powerful 2-litre turbocharged engines.


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