suzuka is name every race fan probably knows. with its uniqe track layout, forming an 8, and its high-speed sections it is a track statedly loved by many race drivers or riders as well as by the spectators.
overshadowed by Daijiroh Kato's fatal accident in 2003 and upcoming, newer tracks though first the MotoGP moved to the Motegi track north of Tokyo and then this year (2006) saw the last f1 race at suzuka for the time being. from next year on the japanese f1 grand prix will be held at fuji speedway.
where in japan is suzuka? take a look at the picture below!
the friendly person in the picture points with his finger to suzuka in the mie prefecture
suzuka lies in the mie prefecture (三重県)and can easily reached by car or train. from nagoya international airport the circuit is no further than 1.5 hours by car or 2.5 hours by train. after exiting the highway at suzuka, it's 13.2km to the circuit, everything clearly indicated.
there are several parking lots along the ciruit and also shuttle buses from the train stations so access should be no problem. on the circuit area the important infrastructure is also labelled in english.
we went to see the last superbike (750ccm)/ supersport (600ccm)/ 125ccm race of the japanese season on november 4th / 5th. since i didn't follow the japanese superbiks series this year i didn't know that the title was still up for grabs. the title race in the other classes seemed to have been decided already though.
the picture no one will click on - a ticket to suzuka!
tickets for two days entries were 3000 yen (ca. 30euro, 40sfr - unbelievably cheap compared to f1-tickets which are ten times that much (starting from 30'000 yen). ok, i'm comparing apples and oranges here but still.... merchandise though was still as expensive as ever. a "valentino rossi"-baseball with only his trademark number 46 on it for 5000 yen ¬_¬
the ferrari shop. home of the high prices. yeah!
we were lucky and those two days were sunny but not too hot. after strolling through the entertainment park with the famous ferris-wheel which is a part of the entertainment park built just beside the race track we watched a part of the 125ccm practice from the grandstands before heading to the first turn complex.
the first turn complex
although on television the first turn looks like just one continous turn in reality it's a bit different. first, the end of the start finish straight going into to the first turn is slightly downhill! in a car this might not be a big deal but on a bike that scares the heebie-jeebies out of you and it takes a real man to brake down from speeds in excess of 300km/h at the latest moment!
the start-finish straight coming out of the last corner and past the pits towards the first turn
the reminder of the first turn is not evenly round but slightly crooked to the right before it opens up towards the chicane which leads to the esses which seemed enormously steep from the tribunes in the first corner.
panorama-shot of the pits, first turn, chicane and esses (1.3mb, opens in new window)
anyway, the seats around the first corner seemed a pretty good choice for enjoying the action. the engines of the motorbikes could clearly be heard long before the bikes dashed out from behind the pits. one guy on a superspot bike even did a small off-road excursion at the end of turn one, luckily without falling down. the speed differences not only between the different classes but also between the determined and the not-so-determined riders was also quite clearly visible.
the stretch between the first corner and the chicane is a chance for overtaking in bikeraces (in car races, the stretch is too small and the track too narrow) and we saw plenty of attempts on sunday and some riders were even successful. good on ya, mates! おめでとう！
one thing no note about that stretch before the chicane is that the riders shift their weight from the right (first turn) to the left for the chicane before the esses. everyone who's ever ridden a motorbike with some slight interest in racing knows this is normal but for outsiders it looks like "あそこでライダーたちのみんながお尻を上げるよ" ^_^
600ccm practice - where the riders lift their behind
the crowd interested in national bikerace series was visible smaller than at f1 or motogp races. the stands were mostly empty except for a couple of enthusiasts with banners and the photographers, which is a pity regarding the entertainment these races offered. it was also good to see women and kids amongst the spectators, confirming that a weekend at the races is not only for bike-nerds but can be a nice trip for the family, especially since there is also an amusement park at the suzuka circuit if the kids can't sit still anymore.
so, the circuit being quite far off, it was like a field trip to the the countryside in fact, we were able to do some walking too and the air was fresh - that is, when the 2-stroke bikes weren't running.
the amusement park at the suzuka circuit
most teams and manufacturers had stands outside the circuit with bikes on displays, makers showed off their newest models, there was a trial-bike show, different 屋台 sold their usual stuff etc.
different makers use bikeraces to showcase their models
since only weeks ago, american nicky "kentucky kid" hayden had won the motogp championship, of course honda a one of these jewels on display too.
nicky hayden's motogp bike
and what honda can, kawasaki can do it, too. this one is team green, one of the strongest teams in the japanese superbike championship.
don, these pictures are for you!
we spent the the night in a business hotel called "Castle View" (with no castle in sight) in the town of Suzuka. Unfortunately, like many other cities, Suzuka is mostly just a long strip with shops along the main street. There was the obligatory Jusco/Aeon/Seibu complex and we had breakfast at Denny's the next morning, passing a Gasto, McDonalds, KFC, Noshinoya etc to get there. Of course there's a Suzuka castle but apart from that, Suzuka ist just 田舎, same as Hockenheim i guess.
The races on sunday were interesting in the beginning when all bikes were together (what a sound when they were flying past by) but as soon as the field got more and more stretched out, it became a bit difficult to keep an overview, especially as there were no screens installed. it's not f1 after all.
especially the 600ccm race treated us with some nice high-speed chases.
an action-packed 600ccm race
between the supersport and superbike race, one of the more popular veteran riders announced his retirement and a group of small kids, boys and girls, aged up to 6 (i think) did a lap around the suzuka cicuit, led on by their driving school instructors. future racing stars in the making maybe?
a pack of kids on bikes. 私も乗らせてくれ!