Toyota aims high with plans to win big race back from Suzuka
Toyota unveiled the revamped Fuji Speedway in March with the clear intention of returning the Japanese Grand Prix to the 2.9-mile circuit in place of Honda-owned Suzuka.
Ralf Schumacher, who raced at Fuji in Formula Nippon during the mid-90s, completed five laps of the Hermann Tilke-altered circuit in a Toyota TF105 and said: “Obviously the changes are great, but with the long straight the character of the old track is still there. It will be a good place for fans and drivers.”
Some corners have been reprofiled and much of the redundant banking built in the 1960s has now been demolished, but the same basic track configuration remains similar to how it was during the track’s ’70s Formula One heyday.
Fuji Speedway originally opened in 1966 and first hosted a World Championship grand prix in 1976. This was won by Mario Andretti for Lotus in monsoon conditions as third-placed James Hunt clinched the title in a thrilling series finale.
Hunt returned a year later and won the race outright for McLaren, but tragedy struck when the Ferrari of Gilles Villeneuve connected with Ronnie Peterson’s Tyrrell and then somersaulted into a restricted area, killing a marshal. The Japanese Grand Prix was subsequently off the Formula One calendar for a decade.
The first event to be held on the revamped circuit will be the Super GT Fuji 500km race on May 4.