Replacing the legendary Suzuka circuit for the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix (the venues will alternate from 2009), the Fuji Speedway had a tough act to follow. But with Mount Fuji as a backdrop, a multimillion-dollar refurbishment by track design guru Hermann Tilke and an overtaking-friendly 1.5-kilometre straight, Japan's new Grand Prix circuit proved more than ready to take on the challenge.
Originally built in the style of an American speedway in 1966, Fuji is best remembered for hosting the very first Japanese Grand Prix in 1976. The inaugural race was the setting for one of Formula One racing's closest title showdowns, between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Though the event proved popular, the 1977 race would be the circuit's last appearance on the Formula One world championship calendar for 30 years.
In 2000, Toyota bought a 93 percent stake in the track and three years later Fuji was closed for renovation, before reopening in February 2005. Measuring 4.5 kilometres in length, the results of Tilke's refurbishment were substantial. Combining the original circuit's celebrated straight with his characteristic twists and turns, the new design impressed enough to secure the Japanese race for 2007. Updated and modernised, the track easily rivals other new circuits in Bahrain, Shanghai and Istanbul. Widened tarmac run-off areas have improved driver safety, while the enhanced infrastructure and modern facilities satisfy the demands of both the paddock and the spectators.
Located in Japan's populous Shizuoka Prefecture and just 62 miles from Tokyo, organisers expect to attract up to 220,000 spectators to Fuji over the course of the race weekend, with 110,000 on race day alone. To accommodate the crowds, the circuit boasts some of the calendar's best grandstands, including seating for 24,000 opposite the pits.