Changing tracks: Suzuka

Changing tracksPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Track entrance, 2001

Suzuka Circuit is little different today from the version first used for the Japanese Grand Prix in 1987.

That so little of the John Hugenholtz-designed masterpiece has changed is precisely why several F1 drivers name it as their favourite track.

And it’s also the only circuit used in F1 to feature a crossover as part of the design.

Suzuka Circuit, 1987

Length: 5.859km (3.641 miles)

The first racing track to be built in Japan, Suzuka was opened in 1962, originally to be used by Honda as a test track. It held a non-championship Japanese Grand Prix in 1963. The race was won by Peter Warr, who sadly passed away on Monday.

The world championship didn’t arrive at the circuit until 25 years after it was built, by which time some changes had been made to its configuration.

The most significant of which was the construction of a chicane before the final corner in 1983. Given the reputation attached to the preceding high-speed turn, 130R, one can only imagine what terrifying speeds F1 cars would have tackled that bend at without a chicane.

Over the next four years several other corners were changed to create more run-off, including Spoon (1984) turns one and two (1985) and finally Degner (1987). The latter was changed from a single curve into two separate bends.

A new pit and paddock was also built. Famously, four million Japanese fans entered a lottery to win a chance to buy tickets for the race, national interest in F1 fired by the successes of the Honda-powered Williams and Lotus cars.

Suzuka Circuit, 2010

Length: 5.807km (3.608 miles)
Track data: Suzuka, Japan ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ circuit information

The current version of the track has been unchanged since 2003. With little room available for expansion (land is extremely expensive in Japan and the layout is very compact) the circuit seems to be safe from ‘Tilke-isation’.

The chicane, scene of great controversy when Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna tangled in 1989, has been tweaked twice: first in 1991, then again in 2003.

That year also saw the re-profiling of 130R to ease the corner. This came after Allan McNish’s huge crash at the corner in 2002, where he levelled part of the barrier and his shattered car came to a rest outside the track.

The Japanese Grand Prix relocated to Fuji for two years in 2007 and 2008. F1 returned last year to a much-upgraded facility, with an expanded paddock, new pits and office buildings were among the improvements.

Happily, the race organisers continued to leave the track layout alone.

Suzuka, 2010 Japanese Grand Prix
Suzuka, 2010 Japanese Grand Prix

Suzuka in pictures

How F1 tracks have changed

Image ?ι?® Renault/LAT, Ferrari spa, BMW ag, Red Bull/GEPA, Spyker F1 Team, Ferrari spa, Red Bull/Getty images, www.mclaren.com, Red Bull/GEPA, Toyota F1 World