Fuji Speedway: Fire Under The Mountain • Race Track Profiles

Fuji Speedway… This 4.5 kilometer road course in Japan was
originally built with NASCAR in mind! However, when the contract to bring the series
there was set up, the intent was to build a high speed oval. In June 1964, the last of the land for the
track was purchased and construction began almost immediately. The plan was to build a superspeedway inspired
by Daytona, with two long straights leading to high banked corners. However, a little over a year later, the project
was drained of funds. Only one of the banked turns, the Daiichi
corners, were finished, and plans were revised to abandon the NASCAR contract and instead
build a more traditional road course. In October 1965, Mitsubishi Estate, a subsidiary
of the company that also owns Mitsubishi Motors, acquired controlling interest in the project. In December of 1965, the road course circuit
opened, and early tests revealed some problems with the track. The track as a whole allowed for exceptionally
high speeds, and the high banked corner had the unusual quirk of having the car drop into
the banking as it moved from the straight to the turn, instead of the design most tracks
went with where the cars would climb up the bank. The high bank corner only had an armco barrier
to keep cars on the track, but at the speeds this track saw, it often didn’t. Early on, this track took the lives of many
drivers. In 1966, Kenichi Nagai’s touring car was blown
off the banked turn by a gust of wind. In February of 1969, Yukio Fukuzawa was test
driving a Toyota 7 race car when it suddenly left the track and struck a sign. Five total driver deaths occurred just in
the latter half of the 1960s. It wasn’t until an intense fatal crash in
1974 that took the lives of drivers Hiroshi Kazato and Seiichi Suzuki, along with 6 other
people, that the banked portion of the track was cut from use. A downhill hairpin was built at the end of
the straight, bypassing the Daiichi banked corner, which was never used again. Things started to look up for Fuji Speedway
when it secured a Formula 1 event; the 1976 Japanese F1 Grand Prix. The race had many weather delays, but ended
up being a very exciting finale to the F1 season, with the McLaren driver James Hunt
fighting his way back from a tire puncture to finish third, securing the championship. While it seemed that the track may have found
its stride, the following year there was an accident where a car collided with a group
of race officials and photographers, two of which were killed. F1 did not return the following year. Through the 1980s, Fuji Speedway mostly appeared
on only national motorsports series schedules, with the World Endurance Championship being
the only International event making a frequent appearance there. In 1983, promising race driver Toru Takahashi
had a fatal accident in the final corner of the track. The following year, a chicane was added to
that final corner in order to help reduce speeds on the straight. In 1986, the first turn was squared off and
made more narrow to further reduce speeds and improve safety. In 1993, that turn also had a gravel trap
installed, which completely split the old banked turn from the main straight for good. Big changes for the circuit began in October
of 2000. Toyota completed its buy-out of the circuit
and announced plans to bring it up to modern Formula 1 standards. In 2003, the track was closed for rennovation. Two years later, an ultra-modern facility
was revealed, with a majority of the track layout intact. The final section of the track was altered
the most, turning a sweeping long turn into a low-speed section, giving the track many
more slow corners. In 2007, Formula 1 made a long-awaited return
to Fuji Speedway, but the Japanese Grand Prix would return to Suzuka in 2009, with plans
to go to Fuji every other year. With the global recession even hitting Toyota,
the world’s largest automaker at the time, the company pulled out of all Formula 1 obligations,
and to this day, Formula 1 has not returned. Once again Fuji Speedway would return to being
a track of national importance, stepping down from the ranks of the big international event
race tracks. Today, Fuji Speedway is one of the few top-level
international tracks to host drifting events, with D1 typically having at least one event
there per season. It also hosts the popular Toyota Motorsport
Festival and Nismo Festival. As of 2019, Fuji Speedway has hosted four
F1 events, Super GT, Le Mans, D1, Super Formula, and many other forms of motorsport. It is one of the most popular race tracks
in Japan, and has appeared in many video games, including many iterations of Gran Turismo. The footage you’re watching now is from Gran
Turismo Sport. So what do you think of Fuji Speedway? Should Formula 1 return? What racing series would you like to see there? Do you prefer the original layout, the current
layout, or one of the transitional phases in between? Let me know in the comments below, as well
as what track you would like to see in the next Race Track Profile. Thanks for watching, I hope to see you in
the next Cars Simplified video.