The Suzuka International Racing Course is a motorsport race track located in Suzuka City, Japan and operated by Mobilityland Corporation, a subsidiary of Honda Motor Co, Ltd. It has a capacity of 155,000.
Soichiro Honda decided to develop a new permanent circuit in Mie prefecture in the late 1950s. Designed as a Honda test track in 1962 by Dutchman John "Hans" Hugenholtz, Suzuka is one of few circuits in the world to have a "figure eight" layout, with the 1.2 km back straight passing over the front section by means of an overpass.
The circuit has been modified four times:
In 1983 a chicane (a serpentine curve in a road, added by design rather than dictated by geography) was put at the last curve to slow the cars into the pit straight and the Degner curve was made into two corners instead of one long curve; the circuit was also made considerably safer by adding more crash barriers, more run-off areas and removing straw bales leading into vegetation.
In 2002, the chicane was slightly modified, 130R was also modified and some of the snake curves were made a bit straighter and faster;
In 2003, the chicane was made slightly faster and closer to the 130R.
Following the death of Daijiro Kato at the 2003 Japanese motorcycle Grand Prix, Suzuka reconfigured the motorcycle variant of what is now known as the Hitachi Automotive Systems Chicane before the final turn, and added a second chicane, between the hairpin and 200R.
The circuit can be used in five configurations; the car full circuit, the motorcycle full circuit, the "Suzuka east," "Suzuka west car," and "Suzuka west motorcycle" configurations. The "east" portion of the course consists of the pit straight to the first half of the Dunlop curve (turn seven), before leading back to the pit straight via a tight right-hander. The "west" course is made up of the other part of the full circuit, including the crossover bridge; the straight leading to the overpass is used for the start/finish line and the grid. The chicane between the hairpin and 200R separates the west and full course sections between cars and motorcycles.
The Degner curve was named in honour of Ernst Degner after he crashed his factory Suzuki 50 there during Suzuka's inaugural All Japan Championship Road Race meeting on 3 November 1962.
Suzuka was dropped from the Formula One calendar for the 2007 and 2008 seasons in favour of the Toyota-owned Fuji Speedway, after the latter underwent a transformation and redesign by circuit designer Hermann Tilke. Suzuka and Fuji were to alternate hosting the Japanese Grand Prix from 2009. However, after Fuji announced in July 2009 that it would no longer be part of the F1 calendar, Suzuka signed a deal to host the Japanese Grand Prix in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
The circuit closed for a year in order for the renovation to make it F1-compliant for 2009, with the last major event held on November 18, 2007, although some annual events (for instance, the Suzuka 8 Hours and Suzuka 1000km) were still held. The track held a re-opening day on April 12, 2009.
Suzuka also hosts other motorsport events including the Suzuka 1000 km endurance race. Previously a part of multiple GT racing series including the now defunct group C class of the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship, the Suzuka 1000 km as of 2006 is now a points round of the Super GT Series, and is the only race of such length in that series.
Suzuka, openly touted by F1 drivers and fans as one of the most enjoyed, is also one of the oldest remaining tracks of the Formula One World Championship, and so has a long history of races as venue of the Japanese Grand Prix. Its traditional role as one of the last Grands Prix of the season means numerous world championships have been decided at the track.
Another major motorsport event is the Suzuka 8 Hours for motorcycles, which has been run since 1978. This event usually attracts big name riders and with the exception of 2005, due to the importance of the major manufacturers' involvement, the FIM ensures that no motorcycle races clash on the date.
NASCAR organized the NASCAR Thunder 100, a pair of exhibition 100-lap races on the east circuit, a 1.4 mile layout which utilizes the pit straight and esses, before rejoining the main circuit near the Casio triangle. The cars were Sprint Cup Series and Camping World West Series cars and the field was by invitation for the two races, run after the 1996 and 1997 seasons. The 1996 event was marred by tragedy when during practice, pace car driver Elmo Langley died of a heart attack in the Chevrolet Corvette pace car at the esses during an evaluation run.
During qualifying for the 1997 race, rain caused Goodyear to use rain tires on Sprint Cup cars for the first time in the modern era.
It was announced on June 21, 2010 that the east section of the Suzuka Circuit would host the Japan round of the 2011 WTCC season instead of the Okayama International Circuit.