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444: Ryder Cup golfers do battle at The Belfry
442: Toyota Princess Cup 2002
440: 2002 J.League Stage 2
by Len Clarke

Auto Racing 2006

Get your motor running as Japan’s racetracks rev up the action

SUPER GT: Nissan’s fearsome Fairlady Z
©Len Clarke/RACENOW Japan

The 2006 racing season is almost upon us, and this year promises to be a stormer. With no fewer than 10 international-level tracks, the question is where and when, not if, enthusiasts should attend a race.

Formula One
The Suzuka Circuit, the traditional (though not original) home of the Japanese Grand Prix, will host this year’s event over the October 6-8 weekend. Often the championship-deciding round, the Japanese Grand Prix is renowned worldwide for featuring one of the most challenging circuits anywhere. Ticketing information is available through the circuit’s website at

IRL (Indy Racing League)
Twin Ring Motegi, located two and a half hours north of Tokyo, again hosts what is currently the most popular form of open-wheel racing from the US. Scheduled for April 22, the Indy Japan 300 features some of the fastest cars you’ll see on a track anywhere. While some may argue that oval racing is not that exciting to watch, the speeds are simply staggering. And there’s no shortage of passing. Check for Japanese info or the IRL’s official site at

Rally Japan
After many years of trying, Japan finally landed its own round of the World Rally Championship in 2004. The event is held in the natural beauty of Hokkaido, with the Service Park and Super Special stages located in Obihiro. As spectator stages are held well away from the town—in some cases up to 100km away—plan on renting a car if you’re heading up. This year’s event takes over the first weekend in September. Rally Japan is hugely popular with Japanese fans, and domestic manufacturer Subaru is expected to be very strong. Check for info.

Super GT
Super GT (known as the JGTC from 1994 to 2004) is Japan’s most popular motorsport series. Typically featuring 300km and 500km events, the circuit will add a 1,000km race at Suzuka August 19-20. The nine-event season kicks off March 18-19, also at Suzuka, and visits six tracks domestically as well as Malaysia’s Sepang Circuit on June 25.

For Tokyoites, the series comes to Fuji Speedway over the Golden Week holidays (and again in the first weekend of November) for one of the biggest annual race meets in the country. Diehard fans will not want to miss the 500km event, which regularly attracts over 100,000 spectators. Adding to the ranks of foreign drivers in the series—there were 15 in 2005—is Dane Jan Magnussen, competing in the spectacular Maserati MC12 (also making its Japan racing debut) for Team GOH, alongside 2004 Le Mans 24 Hours’ winner Seiji Ara.

Formula Nippon
Japan’s top level open-wheel series, Formula Nippon has been the stepping-stone to Formula One for many top drivers, including Jacques Villeneuve, Ralf Schumacher, Pedro de la Rosa and, most recently, Yuji Ide. This season should prove to be a nail-biter as, for the first time in the series’ history, two engine manufacturers will battle for supremacy. Reminiscent of what’s happening in F1, Toyota and Honda are set to take each other on in their own backyards.

All-Japan F3 Championship
Regularly billed as a support race to Formula Nippon events, the All-Japan F3 Championship showcases up-and-coming Japanese drivers against some of the hottest foreign talent in a category that is always very exciting to watch. This season, German driver Adrian Sutil (runner-up in last year’s F3 Euroseries) joins the crack TOM’s Toyota outfit, while Brazilian Fabio Carbone returns to Japan after a year away.

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