Toyota has scored a victory over Honda by bringing next year’s Japanese Grand Prix back to the revamped Fuji Speedway, exactly 30 years after the last Formula One race hosted at the historical venue.
The original events in 1976-77 were not a financial success, and an accident that killed two onlookers in the second year contributed to the race falling off the calendar. It was revived at Suzuka 10 years later, by which time track owner Honda was setting the pace with Williams.
Toyota acquired Fuji with the express intention of stealing the race from Honda-owned Suzuka. The track, whose basic infrastructure had changed little since the 1960s, was completely rebuilt. The actual circuit retains much of the character of the original, with its mile-long straight and sweeping curves.
Ralf Schumacher, who has demonstrated a Toyota at Fuji, says the track will be spectacular: “The straight looks like a runway, with a very tiny infield before it and after and some medium-speed corners. It’s going to be interesting.”
It remains to be seen whether Suzuka will have a second chance as the host of a Pacific or Asian GP, presumably much earlier in the season. Japan had a second race at Aida in 1994 and ’95.