Japan's 1st Dakar rally champ, Shinozuka Kenjiro, dies of cancer at 75

Japan's first race car driver to win the Paris-Dakar Rally in 1997, Shinozuka Kenjiro, has died from pancreatic cancer. He was 75 years old.

Shinozuka was a driver and full-time employee of an automaker that he joined after graduating from university. In 1986, he began competing in what is billed as the world's most grueling endurance race, which is mostly held in Africa.

In 2002, he helped build an elementary school in Senegal, where Dakar, the finishing point of the rally, is located. He sent stationery to the school every year and supported it in other ways.

His dedication was recognized in 2022, when he was inducted into Japan Automotive Hall of Fame.

Even after turning 70, he took part in rallies held in the Sahara.

His wife, Hiroko, said in a statement that he had kept driving for so long. She asked people to commend him for that and thanked them for their support.