Suzuka 2009

By on August 31, 2009

This October’s Japanese F1 Grand Prix will not be held at the relatively proximal Fuji Speedway, but at the Honda-owned Suzuka circuit located south of Nagoya. Lest the prospect of a four-hour drive or three hour train journey put you off, it is worth remembering that Suzuka offers a number of attractions for Tokyoites with families that Fuji cannot match.  


The expansive Motopia theme park has over 30 different rides, most of which put more emphasis on the joy of driving or riding than their Disneyland or Sanrio rivals. In addition to riding the requisite Ferris wheel and tea cups kids over 3 years old can pilot their own electric scooters or even drift race cars on a specially designed negative camber race course. Those capable of riding a bicycle without training wheels can also join a motorbike school where they’ll learn to twist a throttle or hit the brakes before being let lose on a series of challenging, but safe, short courses.


Graduates from the Kids Bike school earn an “A-license” which entitles them to go “touring,” not only on courses in Suzuka, but at Honda’s sister circuit Motegi and at Tama Tech in western Tokyo. More licenses can also by earned by successfully negotiating the Kid’s Drive and Town Drive courses without running any red lights or ignoring stop signs.  


Those with a little more need for speed can test their skills on Acro-X 4x4s, test cars or go karts, while anyone over 135cms tall can have a crack at the Grand Prix karts. Grow another 5cms and you’re ready to ascend the Racing Kart ladder, starting out in 200cc machines before graduating to 240cc then 270cc racers – an area where mums and dads are likely to have just as much fun as the kids.  


Not everyone can be a racer of course, so for those with a mechanical bent, Suzuka also offers hour long lessons in how to build, test drive, then strip down electric karts, using all manner of tools and gadgets – again parents are likely to learn a thing or two here as well.  


But let’s not forget Suzuka’s main purpose: it is a race circuit – the only figure-of eight track on the F1 calendar, and a hands-down favourite with all the drivers. This year’s race is shaping up to be unusually open with drivers from Brawn F1, McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari and Renault all having a fighting chance of standing atop the podium when the dust settles on October 4th.  


Getting there: Suzuka is a four-hour drive from Tokyo, or a three hour train ride by shinkansen to Nagoya then Kintetsu line to Shiroko station.  

For ticket information see:


Hoping to see a dramatic show-down between 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton and this year’s leading contender Jenson Button (who both happen to be British and drive for British teams)?  The UK’s Trade and Investment diplomatic branch, Caterham Cars Japan and Suzuka themselves have set aside 1,000 prime seats for British supporters and supporters of British teams and drivers. 


Set above the final corner, the imaginatively named British Supporters Seats give a view over the start finish straight, pit entrance and Casio Triangle – the busiest overtaking spot on the circuit and scene of many infamous crashes over the years. To keep the British supporters happy, Suzuka plans to lay on a traditional beer tent (with proper beer and pies) and bags with various British goodies.  


Tickets cost a (relatively) reasonable ¥44,000 for the entire race weekend, from free practice on Friday October 2 through qualifying on the Saturday and the race itself on the 4th. Rumour has it that some faces familiar to all British petrol heads will be in attendance.  


Purchase via Ticket PIA on 052-320-9696 (English speaking operators available 10am – 4pm) Union Jack boxer shorts and bowler hats optional, but encouraged.

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