“I Get Barbecued on a Grill Sometimes, but in the Past My Goal Was F1!” The Unknown Life of Tarzan Yamada【Play Back The OPTION】
Published : 2019/10/10 09:24 Modified : 2019/10/10 09:35
The man who admired Ayrton Senna and genuinely aimed for F1
Upon meeting Daijiro Inada (aka Dai), his life plans became askew?!
Eiji Yamada went by the nickname, Tarzan (or Rahman). As a driver, he was indispensable and special to OPTION Magazine. He was a time attack privateer that Japan proudly shared with the world. The close relationship between such a man and OPTION began in 1985. Tarzan, at that time, was a racing driver active in F3 and seriously aimed to step up to the F1.
His driving caught Daijiro Inada’s eye, and he was selected as the first driver of the “OPT300ZX Endurance Race Challenge” series. As a result, he began participating in various OPTION Magazine projects and gradually walked towards the dark side.
Let’s throw it back to when Tarzan was still a promising 23-year-young racing driver… Here’s “Do You Know Eiji Yamada” from OPTION Magazine’s July 1985 issue!
Do You Know the OPT Z Driver, Eiji Yamada
Eiji Yamada OPT Z, Number One Driver
Born on April 25, 1962 (23 years old)
A curious case from the very beginning. Why did OPT choose Eiji Yamada as the ace driver in the OPT300ZX endurance race? There were countless drivers who actively raced in F2 and GC, as well as those in top class productions. Among the thousands of drivers, who were young with future potential… Why him?
“In the case of this V6Z, the engine power and suspension balance must be bad. Even though a racing suspension for the New Z is not out yet, the car would definitely be difficult to control with a VG30 engine that outputs over 300ps. Yamada, albeit with an F3 license, gets thrown about driving all the time. Speed is necessary, but I prioritized someone accustomed to instability… That’s why I chose Eiji Yamada.”
We recalled a driver at the FISCO Nissan test runs, who repeatedly attacked the corners. At that time, we did not know that this driver was Eiji Yamada. However, by this point, Dai had already been mentally keeping tabs on him.
If there were two drivers of the same level, who lived in either the city or the country, usually the driver from the city would receive the call out of convenience. Fortunately, Dai’s hometown was on the Kyushu countryside. Perhaps Dai and Tarzan connected on a spiritual, regional level.
We asked Ei-chan (Eiji Yamada) to share his true feelings when they contacted him about the endurance race.
“I honestly didn’t want to lol. I was shooting for F2 and F1, so it felt off-track. But you benefit from every experience, so I was confident about it. Even for the 1000km, apparently people saw my driving as unstable, but in reality, that was the suspension and tire imbalance. Other drivers wouldn’t accelerate at full throttle on the corners because it’s kind of scary, but I did just the opposite with control. If the suspension was perfect, counter-steering would have been possible; since that wasn’t my situation, I guess it appeared as though my driving was unstable. Grip driving doesn’t work for the upper levels.
As a result, the 50-second range was the best. That being said, the transition to the faster cars from the following group, Group C, was a bit extreme. They signaled the corresponding drivers to drive ahead from quite a distance beforehand. It was probably the most mentally exhausting since I didn’t want to interfere with the signals and cause collisions. I had confidence that I could drive faster, though…”
Born and raised in the mountainous depths of Nara prefecture. Surrounded by mountains, his home was just 10 minutes away from the Yoshinogawa (Yoshino River). Tarzan was the youngest of three. His personality was meek and very shy. However, he had a stronger sense of justice than most people. It could be said that his mountain-trained build made him an all-star athlete. He was always at the top for sports festivals. In middle school, he joined the soccer team. Even though he had just joined, he became a team regular and brought home many victories. Above all, he disliked studying.
The first-years on a soccer team usually picked up balls and served as the team cheerleaders at games. Moreover, Nara’s soccer and baseball scene was very much active and high level. We were honestly envious of Ei-chan for becoming a team regular within just one year.
Though, his soccer career came to an end after a year. Even if he were to continue playing, he wasn’t going to become a professional soccer player. Meanwhile, he wasn’t that sure of his studies, either. He didn’t find interest in living similarly as his colleagues, and slowly realized that he wasn’t living his life to the fullest.
Around that time, his older brother drove a Celica, and consequently, he showed some interest. Since Suzuka Circuit was close by, he decided to check it out. He woke up at 4 AM to catch the first morning train out to the circuit. This was also the same day of the F2 event.
【The Day He Chose the Racer Life】
“The moment I thought ‘whoa,’ I just knew that I was meant to race. This was what I’ve wanted to do all along. I was totally impressed. Though I knew that this wasn’t going to be easy, I chose to race like my life depended on it. I definitely didn’t want to go about this half-heartedly. Since I decided not to go to high school, I used that time to help my family’s transport business and save up my money. Bottom line, if you don’t have money, you can’t race.”
When he reached the age of eighteen, he obtained his driver’s license. Despite having a license, he did not have the luxury to purchase a car, so his older brother graciously gave him his old Celica. After a month, he finally accumulated enough savings to buy a brand new Oscar FJ1600. He paid right under 14k USD at that time. Immediately, he took it on Suzuka Circuit.
【My First Time on Formula】
“I was scared. No matter how wide this circuit was, it was my first time driving the FJ on it. Handling it was intense, and because this was a formula car, the strong winds against my helmet really shocked me. To this day, I remember that I desperately controlled my driving, but I have no idea how I pulled through. My cornering was a mess. I can laugh about it now, but back then I barely survived.”
He shared with us that it took him an extensive amount of time to reach the beginning stages of his formula life. No one was available to teach him how to drive, especially living on the countryside, and all of his friends went to school. Basically, he had no clue where to purchase a race car, or how to obtain permission for driving on the track. He searched through countless books to accomplish these things; since he attempted everything alone, time was not on his side. It took him two long years of tedious practice to reach his debut.
Financially, however, he was only able to drive once a month. His entire month’s paycheck disappeared to pay for gas and maintenance with just one run. Then, to rub salt in the wound, his second run resulted in a huge crash.
【Documentary of the Incident】
Location: Suzuka Circuit. That day was heavy rainfall. Immediately after coming up the last corner, the puddles at the center of the straight course caught his wheels and sent him spinning. There was nothing that could be done. Despite the dangerous situation, all that filled his mind was the cost of vehicle repairs instead of his own life. The car lost control and had collided into a concrete wall. Yamada was unscathed, whereas the vehicle–severely damaged. The repairs and costs took him three months before he could drive it again.
Ei-chan’s debut was at the Suzuka Silver Cup Round 4 in 1982, and he qualified as fourteenth of twenty-six cars. In the finals, his records weren’t good, as he spun out twice. His mediocre engine, chassis, and tires provided him no chance to win among the upper ranks, with no sponsor to support him along the way. Then, determined that he would never succeed without taking further action, Yamada sold his FJ1600 and bought a new West. His choice was for the reason that ultimately, he could still drive decently with a bad engine if the car itself was good.
His premonition was indeed correct. As polesitter at the Silver Cup Round 7, Yamada gained his first victory.
【A Certain Chance】
“My car was a completely different monster. One time, I asked another driver, Yoshihiro Tachi, to drive my car because it made me unsure of my skill. Turns out that his lap time was two seconds slower than mine, and additionally six to seven seconds slower than my course record. Back then, Tachi was the fastest driver in F3. He warned me that I would make no progress if I continued with this money pit car. Tachi wasn’t the only one who said that, but a lot of others also told me the same thing: if you want achievements, save more money to run with a better situation. And just like how I did it in the past, I worked my butt off and put my bets on the following year.”
In 1984, he purchased a March 793. And with a Tomei-tuned Toyota 2TG engine, he faced his battles. His efforts shined through, as he was polesitter for the first round, then finished second for finals. Yamada finally succeeded in driving to his satisfaction for the first time ever; with full participation in the F3 series, he dominated as polesitter at Suzuka Circuit, won twice, and completed the series with just one point less than Shuji Hyodo.
This year (1985), with sponsorship from Tomei Automotives and assistance from NISMO, Yamada challenges with a March 793 equipped with an FJ engine. Despite the fortunate start, the engine difference between this and that of the previous year has been quite the struggle for him. Compared to the 2TG, the FJ engine is 50 kg (110 lbs) heavier, and this leads to the body balance to be rear-heavy. And, aging is surely a factor. While the 2TG underwent long years of experience and absorbed various racing knowledge, the FJ is not quite there yet. Yamada wants to install a chassis for the FJ, but that will require more money–and that is his current reality.
【Goals & Rivals】
“I’ve finally made it here, so next is F2. I’m eager to get a hold on Mr. Hoshino and Mr. Nakajima. It’s no fun if they remain as the top racers, I imagine it would bore the viewers. Rivals? I’m not aware of any. When it comes to my driving, I have confidence.
In contrast to his calm speech, an intense glimmer danced in Ei-chan’s eyes.
Yamada dedicated his life to racing, and never played around; he didn’t know much about fun, apparently. But recently, he showed interest in trying tennis, golf, or windsurfing. Even though he may be interested, he most likely won’t pick up those hobbies until he becomes first class. Nowadays, it’s rare to see such a dedicated and serious human with no interest in alcohol or smoking.
【Message to the Street Racers】
That’s great if racing through the streets gives you self-satisfaction, but I don’t think there are many benefits. Well, I guess it’s good if you feel refreshed from it.
He didn’t comment much, but it seemed as though he wanted to say that if you’re going to race on the streets, take it to the circuit. When all was said and done, however, we secretly heard that Ei-chan apparently has only one point left on his driver’s license…
We asked him at the end about his thoughts on OPT, and we received a smirk in response. “I can’t believe I’d come across such fine literature that mixes boso-istic content with racing so tastefully!”
Alas, such was the racing life that Eiji Yamada began from the FJ. Stepping up from F3 and admiring Ayrton Senna, he was a genuine racer who truly aimed for F1. Little did he know that in a few years, he would partake in the Human Experience segment of a V-OPT plan to be roasted on a barbecue grill. Eiji Yamada–a lovable man, indeed.