One of the greatest characteristics of the Suzuka Circuit is its unique track layout.
The approximately 6km course has basically not changed since its completion back in 1962. Its first half is purely technical, characterized by its corners complexity while its last half is all about speed, featuring a wide combination of slow, medium and fast corners.
Obviously, racing requires a vast range of techniques and total concentration. At the first technical half of the course, drivers must master the flowing combination of the 1st and 2nd intricate curves, rhythmically steer through the S-Curve, the GYAKU Bank Curve, which in fact rather than a bank it almost leads the driver onto the outside, and finally the Degner Curve – named after an ace rider of the past who crashed at this corner. One small rhythmical mistake at this fine technical sector and the driver loses control ending up off the track.
But of course the last half of the course is no piece of cake either. From the hairpin driven in the lowest gear out through the multi R curves into the often highest recorded speed at the West straight section and then in high gear speeding through the 130R and so forth, the pilot is challenged with an exciting wide range of both low and high speed curves.
High dimensional technique and extreme concentration are required in order to successfully capture this challenging course, so is the opinion of the vast majority of top racing drivers that are given the chance to race at Suzuka Circuit.
Fernando Alonso, the Formula One champion in both 2005 and 2006 comments that “Suzuka is probably the most difficult track in the world. The most challenging one too, that is why I love every bit of this course. ”
The 2007 Formula One champion, Kimi Raikkonen also comments on the challenging characteristics of this track “while one races through some of the corners full on the gas, in order to keep the best speed, some corners require an infinitely fine balance between the braking and the throttle. Too aggressive the approach and one is punished right on the spot.”
When racing here at Suzuka Circuit in 2011, the 2009 Formula One champion, Jenson Button commented that “I love Suzuka Circuit very much. The flow is so very fast I bet any driver that races here, does really enjoy it”.
The formula One 4 years back–to-back world champion, Sebastian Vettel told that “I think Suzuka Circuit is totally fantastic. It must certainly have been designed by God”.
The charms of Suzuka track don’t end in its exciting curves and sequence variety. One other major characteristic is the elevation difference along the track including, of course, the unique overhead crossing. Because the 30m home straight is built on a gradual elevation all the grids are located along the downhill slope. It was thanks to this starting grid characteristic that in 1988 Ayrton Senna was able to re-start the engine and win the race and that year’s championship, after having stalled at the start of the race.
There is of course a reason why the course was built in this exact location in spite of the uneven topographic characteristics.
At first, the plan was to build the Suzuka Circuit course on flat grounds, however when Mr. Soichiro Honda the Honda president at the time, heard the news he became furious. ”What do you think you are doing, destroying the rice fields to build a racing track!” Mr. Soichiro meant that “food must always be the respected priority”.
As a result of Mr. Honda’s advice and philosophy, the birth of the very first true racing circuit in Japan, built in the mountains where no crops would grow.
Both Suzuka Circuit and the Japanese fans have refined their hospitality skills along the years. S. Vettel says that “every year I visit Japan the thousands of fans welcome me with amazing warmth. I love both Japan and of course, Suzuka Circuit. The fans are fantastic and very passionate.”
In fact, this is the opinion regarding the kindness and passion of the local fans of not only the racing drivers but also all the various staff that work in the paddock during races. “Japanese people are friendly and respectful”, “the grand stands are always full and ecstatic” are some of the regular comments heard.
Besides the racing course, Suzuka Circuit hosts several other facilities. The amusement park for example, where small children can freely enjoy driving both bikes and cars has annually over one million families visit. And of course this too contributes to the increasing spread and creation of the new motorsports fans of the future. Visitors can also sign up for driving lessons using the actual racing course. “Mobility Theme Park” Suzuka Circuit is a unique experience world widely. Now, over 50 years since its establishment, Suzuka Circuit is confidently stepping into the next 50 years of its ever exciting history.