Katsuyuki Mori, a former member of superstar pop idol group SMAP, won the national championship Tuesday in auto race, a Japanese version of motorcycle speedway which allows gambling on races.
The 46-year-old -- who left the immensely popular, now-disbanded group in 1996 -- was in tears after winning his first top-level event in the 5,100-meter race, comprising 10 laps of the Kawaguchi Circuit in Saitama, north of Tokyo.
"I owe this to my friends and all my fans. I want to share (the joy) with my father, who has been my biggest supporter," said Mori, who has competed in the sport for 24 years.
Luck was on Mori's side when he moved up from third to first place on the sixth lap, following a crash that took out both riders ahead of him.
"The second half of the race was difficult as it (the bike) began to slip. My positioning was all over the place for the final two laps," he said. "I was so lucky."
SMAP was formed in 1988 when members Masahiro Nakai, Takuya Kimura, Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Shingo Katori and Mori were aged between 11 and 15. The group, whose name stands for "Sports Music Assemble People," disbanded in December 2016.