Former SMAP singer Katsuyuki Mori, who quit the group in 1996, fulfils promise to win auto racing championship

Lim Yian Lu
·2-min read
Former SMAP singer Katsuyuki Mori won the 52nd Japan Auto Race Championship.
Former SMAP singer Katsuyuki Mori won the 52nd Japan Auto Race Championship.

Before the iconic Japanese idol group SMAP rose to fame, the now-disbanded group originally had six members. Katsuyuki Mori controversially left the group in 1996 to pursue his motorcycle racing dream. Last Tuesday (3 November), he finally fulfilled his promise to the other five after 24 years — to become the top motorcycle racer in Japan.

In the 52nd Japan Auto Race Championship, what seemed like 10 mundane racing rounds (from 5:00 in the video below) was actually incredibly nerve-wracking, especially during the fifth round when the two racers in front of Mori (in orange, number 7) crashed (6:40). The first-in-line Mori later zoomed past the finishing line, snatching the champion title (7:53).

During the interview after the race, when asked how he was feeling, Mori responded with tears in his eyes, “I’m glad I was finally able to fulfil my promise.” The champion even thought that it was unbelievable when he crossed the finishing line, and wanted to share this joy with his friends, fans and his father, who is his biggest supporter.

Ex-SMAP members were also overjoyed and congratulated Mori on social media. Shingo Katori posted a photo of both of them, Goro Inagaki and Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, with an emotional caption saying, “Mori made me cry again. The tears when Mori left the group. The tears when we reunited after 21 years three years ago. The tears today when Mori became Japan’s number one auto-racer. Thank you for making me cry happy tears for the second time. There’re now more happy tears than lonely tears. Congratulations on becoming the best in Japan! Let’s meet soon!”

Kusanagi tweeted, “Congratulations, Mori. I don’t know what to say. Thanks for fulfilling the dreams and promises. Mori is the coolest older brother.” On top of these, Katori, Kusanagi and Inagaki who formed their own group Atarashii Chizu (meaning new map), also released a joint statement congratulating Mori on achieving his dream.

Furthermore, Takuya Kimura and Masahiro Nakai jumped on the bandwagon as well, each releasing congratulatory messages through their respective agencies. Kimura wished Mori good luck in the future, while Nakai was glad Mori never gave up his dreams.

Touched by the love among the SMAP members, fans have dubbed 3 November as the day that reunited SMAP. Even if the individual singers of the legendary SMAP have gone their separate ways, with such camaraderie, they will always be SMAP in the eyes of fans.