Long-term plans for Fuji

Senior officials at the Fuji circuit in Japan have stated that they have lobbied the FIA to keep the Japanese circuit on the calendar on a long-term basis. Fuji returns to the Formula 1 calendar after a 30 year absense, however this is at the expense of Honda’s Suzuka track. Plans for 2008 and beyond have not been formally decided yet.

Fuji Speedway’s chairman Akhiko Saito said, “We haven t heard formally about 2008 but our hope is to stage the Japanese Grand Prix for several years. We have informed the FIA of our wish to keep the race here but we have to go through the official avenues. Only next year s Japanese race has been decided. We will put our hands up and hope to be selected again. The final decision is in the hands of the FIA.”

Suzuka is a high speed circuit and was a favourite of many Formula 1 drivers however Saito has promised thrills at Fuji’s new look layout. “It s a different type of circuit,” he explained. “It has Formula One s longest straight (at 1,475 kilometres) so the first corner will be very quick. There are also technical corners — there s a bit of everything. But the proof will be in the racing. It would be nice, of course, to have a Toyota winner.”

Toyota have spent about $170 million on the track in the last 4 years renovating the circuit with the help of track designed Hermann Tilke.

The Japanese Grand Prix was absent between 1977 and 1987 because of an accident between Gilles Villeneuve and Ronnie Peterson which killed two spectators. Since 1987, the Japanese Grand Prix has always been held at Suzuka – until being dropped this year.

Fuji officials are hoping 140,000 fans will attend the circuit on race day, with 280,000 attending over the three days.

The picturesque circuit has an impressive backdrop of the majestic snow-capped Mount Fuji and it nestles amongst wooded hillsides. The officials have planned buses to enable fans to get from the local railway stations and car parks to the circuit easily, whilst minimising congestion and causing minimum disruption to the local community. Fuji Speedway president Hiroaki Karo said, “We don t see it as a problem. We will liaise with the police and the local community to ensure stress-free access and reduce inconvenience to traffic and the environment. Fuji is in the heart of tourist country. The facilities are brand new and there is also shopping and even hot springs nearby. Next year will be a new start for F1 in Japan.”