The Suzuka International Racing Course is a motorsport race track located in Ino, Suzuka City, Mie Prefecture, Japan and operated by Mobilityland Corporation, a subsidiary of Honda Motor Co, Ltd. It has a capacity of 155,000.
Plans for a racing facility Suzuka City were first laid in the early 1960s. Honda had begun racing in the 1950s. Honda seeing racing as the perfect test bed and promotional tool for his proucts, but Japanese infrastructure lagged behind the West. The solution, therefore, was to build their own.
So it was that one day in 1961 Dutchman John Hugenholtz, who had designed the Zandvoort circuit, received a telegram out of the blue. It read simply: 'I'm building a circuit. Please come to Tokyo, Soichiro Honda'. The first plans included not one crossover, but three, with the track zig-zagging around itself after the first few corners, with a complex of hairpin bends on the site of what is now the famous 'Esses'. Final designs included only one cross-over and the completed circuit opened for business in September 1962. Among the first car races at the new venue was sportscar 'Grand Prix', won by Peter Warr in a Lotus 23. Warr would later achieve more success as Lotus team manager.
World Championship motorcycle racing came and went in the 1960s and Suzuka settled into its role as principle test venue. The only significant change to the circuit itself during this time came in 1976, when a wall separating the pit lane from the track was installed. In 1982, Honda re-entered the FIM world championships and Suzuka was included on the calendar for the first time. After one year, a programme of renovations commenced, with the ultimate aim of also getting Suzuka added to the Formula One calendar.
The 80's saw major chnages to the track, with the installation of a chicane prior to the last curve. More drastic changes came when the Spoon Curve section was completely re-aligned to create a large run off area for the first time. It also required some remodelling of the exit of the 200R curve to blend into the new section. New pit buildings, medical facilities, a heliport and a refurbished control tower were installed. While extensive modifications were made to the Degner Curve. Elsewhere, a secondary pit lane and garage facilities was installed on the straight between Spoon Curve and the 130R, for use when the West Course was in action. There was much anticipation for Suzuka's first F1 race – so much so that grandstand tickets had to be allocated by lottery. Suzuka quickly became a popular race at the end of the season and was often witness to high drama; think of Mansell's practice crash during the inaugural race which ended his championship bid, or the collisions between Senna and Prost in 1989 and '90. Most of these controversies result from the race's traditional role as title-decider, with Piquet, Senna, Prost, Hill, Hakkinen and Schumacher all celebrating world title successes here. Minor changes occurred in 1991. In 2001, the first phase of a programme of upgrades began to ensure Suzuka's continued place on the F1 schedule in the wake of fresh interest in the event from Fuji Speedway. Honda gave £18 million for alterations and facility improvements. Following a huge crash at the 130R involving the Toyota of Allan McNish during qualifying for the the 2002 race, urgent changes were made to improve run off at this section of the track. The high speed corner was be re-profiled into a two-radii sweeper. Allied to these changes was the installation of a new chicane, closer to 130R, which was used for car racing.
Recent years have seen a number of new venues challenge Suzuka's position as Japan's number one circuit, despite the Honda Yen. The Motorcycle Grand Prix switched to Honda's other circuit - Twin-Ring Motegi while arch rival Toyota won the rights to the Formula One race at its Fuji circuit after an expensive refurbishment. Unexpectedly, the crash in the world economy brought a fresh opportunity for Honda to seize back the Grand Prix. Toyota's financial woes meant it sought to arrange a new deal with Bernie Ecclestone, which would see it alternate the hosting of the event with Suzuka, splitting the costs. In anticipation, Honda began a further refurbishment programme, contructing a new pit and paddock area, complete with new garage buildings and an expanded main grandstand. In the end, even this revised deal proved too costly and in July 2009, Toyota announced it would no longer be part of F1. Honda stepped in and negotiated a new deal, which has sealed Suzuka's return for the foreseeable future. Additional events today hosted at Suzuka include a round of the World Touring Car Championship held from 2011 until 2013 on the shorter East circuit and only using the longer GP course from 2014 – and the ever popular Super GT and Super Formula single seat series.
Track Length: Suzuka 1962-1982 - 3.608 miles / 5.807 km Suzuka 1983-1984 - 3.749 miles / 6.033 km Suzuka 1984-1986 - 3.693 miles / 5.943 km Suzuka 1987-1990 - 3.641 miles / 5.859 km Suzuka 1991-1999 - 3.644 miles / 5.864 km Suzuka 2000-2001 - 3.644 miles / 5.864 km Suzuka 2001-2002 - 3.641 miles / 5.859 km Suzuka 2003-2004 - 3.608 miles / 5.807 km Suzuka 2004-XXXX - 3.608 miles / 5.807 km East Circuit 1.394 miles / 2.243 km West Circuit 2.154 miles / 3.466 km
Suzuka Circuit is located in Ino just outside Suzuka City in Mie Prefecture, Japan. The nearest international airport is Nagoya's Centrair (Central Japan International Airport). This has links to all of Japan's major cities and, while smaller than Tokyo's Narita airport, it serves an increasing number of international airlines. A third option is to fly into Osaka and take a short bullet train ride.
You can also travel to Suzuka by car - though foreign visitors often find travelling on Japanese roads a confusing affair thanks to the local language signage. If you elect to travel by car, from Nagoya take the Higashi Meihan expressway to the Suzuka exit.
Travel by train is probably the easiest option thanks to Japan's fast and modern network. Catch the Kintetsu line to Shiroko station, from where there are shuttles to the track over race weekends.