|Location||Suzuka, Mie, Japan|
|Record driver||Michael Schumacher|
Suzuka International Racing Course (Suzuka Circuit for short) is a co-host of the Formula One Fuji Television Japanese Grand Prix, and is one of the oldest and most famous motorsport race tracks in Japan. It is located in Suzuka City, Mie Prefecture and is owned by Honda Motor Co., Ltd..
Designed as a Honda test track in 1962 by John Hugenholtz, Suzuka is a unique circuit, being one of the very few in the world to have a figure 8 layout. Obviously, due to the danger of an intersecting track, the track doesn't actually intersect with itself; instead, the back straight passes over the front section by means of an overpass. Due to its unique layout, Suzuka is a massive test of driver skill and is easily one of the most difficult racing circuits in the world. Nevertheless, the track is loved by drivers and spectators alike for its challenging design and many opportunities for overtaking.
Suzuka is one of the oldest remaining tracks on the Grand Prix circuit, and so has a long history of exciting races. Japan's traditional role as the penultimate or final Grand Prix of the season means numerous World Championships have been decided at the track.
Safety has been a concern at the circuit's 130R, a 130m radius turn starting past the Crossover, following two tremendous accidents in 2002 and 2003. In 2002, Toyota driver Allan McNish suffered a high-speed crash through the bump, which sent him through a metal fence; fortunately, he was not seriously injured.
Track officials revised the 130R, which has been compared to Spa's Eau Rouge, redesigning it as a double-apex section, one with an 85m radius, and then a second featuring a 340m radius, leading to a much closer Casio Triangle (chicane), with the chicane becoming a "bus stop" type for motorcycles.
However, the problem continued for the new revised section. During the 2003 MotoGP Grand Prix of Japan, the track's first major event since the revisions, MotoGP rider Daijiro Kato was killed when he crashed in the new section, on his way to the braking zone for the Casio Triangle. MotoGP has not returned to Suzuka since the incident.
The circuit can be used in three configurations; the full circuit, the "Suzuka East" and "Suzuka West" configuration. The "East" portion of the course consists of the pit straight to the first half of the Dunlop curve (turn 7), before leading back to the pit straight via a tight right hander. The "West" course is made up of the other part of the full circuit, with the pitlane located at the straight before the 130R corner.
Suzuka was dropped from the 2007 Formula 1 calendar in favour of the Toyota owned Fuji Speedway, but continues to host other motorsport events including the Suzuka 1000km endurance race. Previously a part of multiple GT racing series including the now defunct Group C class of the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship, the Suzuka 1000km as of 2006 is now a points round of the Super GT series, and is the only race of such length in that series.
Another major motorsport event is the Suzuka 8 Hours for motorcycles, which has been run since 1978. This event usually attracts big name riders and with the exception of 2005, due to the importance of the big name manufacturers involvement, the FIM ensures that no motorcycle races clash on the date.
NASCAR organized a pair of exhibition 100-lap races on the East Circuit, a 1.4mi layout which utilizes the pit straight and esses, before rejoining the main circuit near the Casio Triangle. The cars were Winston Cup and Winston West Series cars and the field was by invitation for the two races, run after the 1996 and 1997 seasons. 1996 saw a dark day in NASCAR when during practice, pace car driver Elmo Langley died of a heart attack in the Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car at the esses during an evaluation run. In 1997, rain caused Goodyear to use rain tires in NASCAR for the first time.
Along with Fuji Speedway, Suzuka Circuit was one of the four tracks featured in the video game Pole Position II (the first game featured only the Fuji track). The Suzuka Circuit was also featured in the Final Lap and the Ferrari F355 Challenge arcade games and video games like Forza Motorsport 2, Gran Turismo 4, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, R: Racing Evolution, Le Mans 24 Hours, MotoGP 3, MotoGP 4, Tourist Trophy, Auto Modellista and as the final race in Taito's racing game Continental Circus. The circuit appears in most F1 games that have been published since 1987. The NASCAR version of the track was featured in NASCAR 98.
Presumably due to licensing issues on Pole Position II, the track is referred to in the Namco Museum versions as the "Wonder" Circuit, after Namco's "Wonder" series of amusement parks, despite its logo appearing on the startline flag mast since 1983. Under the same issue the open source game TORCS also has the track renamed as "Wheel-2".
Suzuka lost the 2007 and 2008 Formula One Japanese Grand Prix to the Fuji Speedway (owned by Honda's perennial rival, Toyota Motor Corporation) after the latter underwent a transformation and redesign by famous race circuit designer Hermann Tilke.
The circuit will close for a year in order for the renovation to make it F1-compliant for 2009, with the last major event beforehand scheduled to take place on November 18 2007.It has now been confirmed that Suzuka will alternate the Japanese Grand Prix with the Fuji Speedway from 2009.
|Masao Asano||May 4 1963||Austin-Healey 3000||130R||Japanese Grand Prix|
|As Asano approached the 130R bend, he crashed into the guardrail, throwing him clear of the car suffering a severe head injury. Asano died in hospital three months later.|
|Tojiro Ukiya||August 20 1965||Honda S600||130R||Practice|
|Whilst avoiding two spectators who were walking on the course, Ukiya swerved but crashed into a lamppost. He was thrown off his car, suffering head injury and fracturing both legs and died in hospital 21 days later.|
|Takeshi Mitsuno||October 10 1965||Suzuka KSCC race meeting|
|Takashi Matsunaga||August 10 1969||Honda R1300||Honda||Spoon Curve||Suzuka 12 Hours race|
|As Matsunaga was about to stop to refuel, he crashed into a guardrail, causing the car to explode into a fireball. Matsunaga was taken into hospital where he died 25 days later on September 4|
|Kiyoshi Akiyama||August 23 1970||Honda S800||Spoon Curve||Suzuka 12 Hours race|
|Collision at Spoon Curve with another vehicle, causing the two cars to explode into a fireball, burning 150 liters of gasoline. Akiyama was trapped the burning car about 15 minutes, burning him to death.|
|Minoru Kawai||August 26 1970||Toyota 7||Toyota||Degner bend||Testing|
|Kawai lost control of the Toyota at the Degner bend at about 200 km/h, being thrown out of the car. He sustained a basal skull fracture and both legs broken, being immediately taken to hospital by ambulance. But about 30 minutes later he died to his injuries.|
|Senkichi Omura||April 7 1974||Brabham BT21||F2000 practice|
|Omura crashed into a guardrail, killing him instantly with a broken neck.|
|Masazi Iso||6 March 1982||All-Japan Formula Three race|
|Iso crashed into the guardrail at the first corner of the race and was killed instantly.<|
|Hitoshi Ogawa||May 24 1992||Lola T92/50 - Mugen Honda||Japanese Formula 3000 race|
|Ogawa attempted to overtake Andrew Gilbert-Scott's car on a straight, but Gilbert-Scott held his position. As Ogawa moved to the side of Gilbert-Scott's car but hit the rear-left wheel of the British driver's car. The front wheel of Ogawa's car climbed over the aforementioned wheel and became lodged in front of it. The two of them travelled down the straight at speed and off into the gravel trap. Gilbert-Scott's car spun while Ogawa's car went in nose-first. Gilbert-Scott's car hit the tyre wall and flipped, landing upside down. However, Ogawa hit a mound and went over the tyre barrier, hitting a high-fence supporting pole with violent force. Both cars were completely destroyed in the accident and the race was immediately stopped. One cameraman, several photographers, and Gilbert-Scott were all injured. Ogawa was freed from his wrecked Team Cerumo Lola, but had suffered severe leg, head and neck injuries during the crash. He died on the way to a hospital.|
|Elmo Langley||November 21 1996||Chevrolet Corvette||NASCAR Suzuka Thunder Special 100 evaluation run|
|Whist approaching the esses during an safety car evaluation run for a NASCAR exhibition race, Langley suffered a heart attack which he died shortly.|
|Mamoru Yamakawa||July 30 2000||Kawasaki Ninja ZX-9R||Challenge of Yamakawa||Suzuka 8 Hours race|
|Yamakawa lost control of his Kawasaki after after failing to negotiate a curve and crashed into the cushioned barriers. He was dead on arrival, caused by severe hemorrhage due to the loss of blood.|
|Daijiro Kato||April 20 2003||Honda RC211V||Japanese motorcycle Grand Prix race|
- Suzuka Circuit
- Suzuka Circuit History and Statistics
- Ciro Pabón's Racetracks 3D views and virtual laps of all F1 circuits, including this one, via Google Earth
- Satellite picture by Google Maps
Current circuits (2008)