JAPAN: Shizuoka (Fuji Speedway)

I’ve always contended that Japan has something for everyone and this holds true for die hard race fans too. Whether you are a fan of Formula One or Nascar, you will be interested in the motorsport track built in the foothills of Mount Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture. The track was built in the early 1960s and has been the gathering place for speed demons far and wide.

Fuji Speedway, as it is known, was originally designed to host Nascar-style races in Japan. However, due to lack of funds only one of the bankings was actually designed and the track was later converted to a road course. The banked turn is known as “Daiichi” and has resulted in several major accidents over the years. After a double fatal accident in 1974 which took the lives of Hiroshi Kazato and Seiichi Suzuki, a new part of the track was added to counteract the problem.

In 1976, Japan hosted its first Formula One race at Fuji Speedway featuring a dramatic battle between drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda. You may remember the film directed by Ron Howard called “Rush,” depicting the competitiveness between the two drivers. Lauda ended up withdrawing from the race due to dangerous conditions.

James Hunt

James Hunt

Niki Lauda

Niki Lauda

In 1977, Gilles Villeneuve was involved in a crash that killed two spectators which lead to Formula One abandoning the Fuji Speedway. Ten years later, when F1 returned to Japan, it was held at the Suzuka track instead. It wasn’t until 2007 that F1 finally made a comeback at Fuji.

The track continues to be a popular racing venue and is often used for national races. In 2000, Toyota purchased the track from Mitsubishi Estate and the track underwent major re-profiling in 2003. It has hosted the NISMO Festival and the Toyota Motorsports Festival which takes place one week before the NISMO event. Fuji Speedway has also been the venue for the Udo Music Festival over the years.

There is a drifting course near the track which was built under the supervision of “drift king” Keiichi Tsuchiya at the time the Fuji track was being refurbished. You will also find a mini circuit there known as the Toyota Safety Education Center.

So visiting Shizuoka is not merely about the beautiful views of Mount Fuji. As you can see, there is much, much more.

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