OYAMA, Shizuoka Pref. — Toyota Motor Corp. on Monday unveiled a revamped Fuji Speedway, a state-of-the-art racing facility the Japanese manufacturer hopes will be among the best Formula One circuits in the world.
The 4.6-km circuit, situated at the base of Mount Fuji, officially obtained a Grade 1 license from F-1’s governing body FIA this month. Toyota holds a 93.39 percent ownership share in Fuji Speedway.
Fuji Speedway originally opened in 1966. Toyota, which is making a major push to get to the top of F-1, completed renovations on the new course this year.
Ralf Schumacher, who joined Toyota for the upcoming F-1 season, was on hand Monday to test drive the new circuit. Schumacher drove four times around the new track in last year’s Toyota TF104. He will be driving a Toyota TF105 when the new season begins on March 6 in Melbourne, Australia.
“It’s a very good course,” said Schumacher. “The changes they have made are great and the long straight is very interesting. It will be a good place for fans and drivers.”
Fuji Speedway could spell the end of F-1 racing at the aging Suzuka circuit in central Japan. Suzuka’s contract to host F-1 expires after the 2006 season and Fuji Speedway is just over an hour’s drive from Tokyo, while Suzuka is three hours from Nagoya by car.
Fuji Speedway boasts a 1.5-km main straight, the longest in the world. The last corner forms a hairpin turn, and will be the key point where drivers will showcase their competitive skills as they head into the main straight.
The main grandstand seats 22,000 spectators.
When the season begins, Schumacher, who signed a three-year contract with Toyota after five years with BMW-Williams, will have his work cut out for him. Older brother Michael heads into the new season as the favorite in his Ferrari.
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