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Suzuka Circuit

Perhaps the most famous track in Japan, Suzuka is also one of the oldest. In the early 1960s, just a few years after producing their first automobile, Soichiro Honda wanted to race in F1, the highest level of racing in the world. And to do this, he wanted a track in his home country to demonstrate that Japan could compete with the West. A piece of land close to a Honda plant was chosen, and then Honda sent a brief and characteristic message to Dutch track designer John Hugenholtz, “I’m building a racetrack. Come to Japan. S. Honda.” With that, Suzuka (originally to be called Motor Sportsland) was born, opening in 1962. Right off the bat, it proved useful for testing Honda’s fastest motorcycles, and then as a venue for sportscar racing—the first 1000 km Suzuka endurance race in 1966 was won by a Toyota 2000GT. By 1976 it became the host of the Japanese Grand Prix, the first F1 race to be held in Japan. It’s also unique as being one of few major racetracks anywhere that follows a figure-8 layout—the back straight passes over the front of the track. Suzuka is a challenging 3.6 mile course, with a final chicane in the Casino Triangle area that was the scene of a famous on-track flap (and off-track controversy) between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in 1988, and a dangerous pair of large-radius turns known as Spoon Curve and 130R (i.e., 130 meter radius). There is also a difficult series of S-curves (turns 3 through 7) to test your car’s composure in transition. Spoon was redesigned in 2002 to be safer, and the Casino Triangle chicane has been revised several times over the years to control speeds going into the final straight and pit lane underneath the famous amusement park carousel. One of the best places to pass is the final chicane, but miss your braking point and you’ll find yourself in the service road.

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