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Friday favourite: The valued gaijin guide lost to tragedy

Peter Dumbreck only spent one year racing with Shingo Tachi, but the personable Japanese rising star made a huge impression on the Scot. Almost 25 years after his untimely passing, Dumbreck reflects on his favourite team-mate

Shingo Tachi, TOM's

His tragic death in an Aida testing accident in 1999 meant Shingo Tachi’s true potential was never fully realised. British Formula 3 observers in 1996 were afforded brief glimpses of the Japanese driver’s talent when, aged 19, he raced a two-year-old Dallara-Toyota run by Alan Mugglestone under the Team Magic Racing banner to second in the Class B standings. In his obituary, Autosport remarked that “the ever-smiling Tachi made a big impression on everyone he met in Britain”.

But it was in his homeland where Tachi truly shone. He earned a top GT500 seat with Team Le Mans in the All-Japan GT Championship by winning the 1998 GT300 crown for Team Taisan aboard a Toyota MR-2. He had spent that year racing in Japanese F3 too and it was at the TOM’S squad owned by his father Nobuhide where Tachi encountered Peter Dumbreck.

The Scot was a wide-eyed newcomer to Japan in 1998, the 1996 Formula Vauxhall champion arriving after a single season in British F3 with Paul Stewart Racing that yielded third in points behind Jonny Kane and Nicolas Minassian, and went to spend a further five seasons there either side of a stint in the DTM. That he was asked back to race in Super GT midway through the 2005 season owed much to the success he enjoyed in 1998, winning the Japanese F3 title, then for good measure adding the Macau Grand Prix.

For Dumbreck, Tachi’s willingness to assist in adapting to Japanese culture was an important factor in his prowess. Therefore, despite their brief time together, Tachi was an immediate pick for his favourite team-mate.

“I got on especially well with Shingo,” says Dumbreck, who had graduated from Vauxhall Junior for 1995 when Tachi arrived on the UK scene in that series with Rowan Racing. “He smoothed the way for me really.

“Shingo certainly made it very easy for me to get used to everything, find my feet and be confident. Then likewise I had the experience in F3 that I would help him with my data and we’d talk things through and try and move the team forward.

“He was living in Gotemba and he’d come and hang out with all the foreign drivers anyway because he spoke good English. He was such a well-mannered, genuinely nice guy, that you just wanted to spend time with him anyway. We always travelled to the tracks together, and hung out and played pool together.”

Dumbreck believes that Tachi’s grounding in Europe meant he was able to sympathise with the new arrival’s travails in an unfamiliar setting.

Tachi took Dumbreck under his wing when he first raced in Japan

Tachi took Dumbreck under his wing when he first raced in Japan

Photo by: Sutton Images

“He’d tell me the stories of this, that, the next thing about Snetterton and living in London and enjoying life in the UK and learning English,” Dumbreck recalls. “Some of his stories would match up with mine of being in the paddock about the same time. I was probably doing Formula Vauxhall when he was doing Junior.

“He did help me a lot with the ins and outs of Japanese culture and teaching me what I should and shouldn’t do. He was so easy-going anyway that he just found it funny when I messed it up.”

Dumbreck won eight times to claim the Japanese F3 title as Tachi, in his second season in the championship, finished third. And at Macau, where Dumbreck didn’t win either heat but beat Ricardo Mauricio to win by 0.003s on aggregate, Tachi was never a factor and ended up 13th. But it was a different story in GT3000 as, on Yokohama rubber, Tachi and Keiichi Suzuki won five of the seven races in 1998. Dumbreck was impressed by his F3 team-mate’s prowess in the sportscar when he made his first foray into the discipline with an A’PEX-run MR-2 shorn with Dunlops.

“I was surprised at his pace, how quick he was in the car,” admits Dumbreck, who stepped up to race Formula Nippon in 1999 around his ill-fated Mercedes sportscar programme with the CLR. “We had a couple of duels in that, but his whole package was just slightly better than mine. I’m sure he felt quite good about it, because I’d taken the F3 championship and he was still fairly young and still learning. But in GT he really was very good, so maybe his career would have taken him solely into GT. But he might have continued in [single-seaters with] Nippon as well.”

“He did help me a lot with the ins and outs of Japanese culture and teaching me what I should and shouldn’t do. He was so easy-going anyway that he just found it funny when I messed it up” Peter Dumbreck

Suzuki retired from racing after Tachi’s death at the age of 21 while testing at Aida, the former Pacific Grand Prix venue. The Le Mans Company Toyota Supra he was due to share with ex-Formula 1 driver Hideki Noda that year crashed at Turn 1 due to a suspected mechanical failure, and Tachi died of chest injuries caused by the steering wheel.

“There is a tyre wall there but it’s built into a dirt bank so there’s nowhere for you to go, there’s no cushioning,” says Dumbreck. He was profoundly affected by the “big loss” of Tachi and remembers exactly where he was upon hearing the news, having his seat fit at AMG’s Affalterbach headquarters. Now a regular FIA driver steward having called time on his driving career in 2020, his lasting memory is Tachi’s ever-present smile and sense of humour.

“We were always pranking each other, me, him and [Yasuhisa] Fujiwara,” Dumbreck chuckles. “One of his favourite things to do, almost every meal-time in fact, in Japan they would always have the condiments on the table. If you went to the toilet and didn’t think about it, you’d get back, pick up your water glass – in Japan you would always have water glasses – and realise that he’d put the tabasco around the rim of the glass. Your lips would be on fire…”

Peter Dumbreck found success back in Super GT between 2005-08, highlighted by victory at Fuji in 2006

Peter Dumbreck found success back in Super GT between 2005-08, highlighted by victory at Fuji in 2006

Photo by: Yasushi Ishihara

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