After Japan finished 17th in the medal table at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics a senior member of the national team organisation complained about the lack of commitment from his athletes. They were too content with just being there, and weren’t determined enough to be winners, was the gist of what he said. It was a reflection of the Japanese character.
The comments resonated because they also seemed to be applicable to motor racing. By 1992 Satoru Nakajima had retired after an undistinguished spell in Formula 1, and Japan was represented on the grid by Aguri Suzuki and Ukyo Katayama. Although both men had their moments, ultimately neither achieved very much. Indeed, they seemed content just to be in F1, their drives secured by sponsors or engine suppliers.
In later years Takuma Sato and Kamui Kobayashi would show a more aggressive approach, especially when racing at home and inspired by the Suzuka crowd. Neither ever made it into a front-running F1 team, but their subsequent success in IndyCar and the WEC respectively showed that they were not lacking in talent.