Fuji eyes extended run in Formula One

Senior officials at Japan's Fuji Speedway circuit said on Thursday they have lobbied Formula One's ruling FIA to keep the Japanese Grand Prix on a long-term basis

Fuji eyes extended run in Formula One

Toyota-owned Fuji returns to the F1 calendar after a 30-year absence in 2007 at the expense of Honda's Suzuka circuit but has yet to receive an endorsement from the FIA beyond next season.

"We haven't heard formally about 2008 but our hope is to stage the Japanese Grand Prix for several years," Fuji Speedway's chairman Akihiko Saito told Reuters.

"We have informed the FIA of our wish to keep the race here but we have to go through the official avenues. Only next year's Japanese race has been decided.

"We will put our hands up and hope to be selected again," Saito added. "The final decision is in the hands of the FIA."

Suzuka's high-speed circuit was a favourite of many Formula One drivers but Saito promised thrills at Fuji's new-look layout.

"It's a different type of circuit," said Saito. "It has Formula One's longest straight (at 1.475 kilometres) so the first corner will be very quick. There are also technical corners -- there's a bit of everything.

"But the proof will be in the racing though. It would be nice of course to have a Toyota winner."

Toyota spent around 20 billion yen ($170 million) between 2002 and 2005 on renovating the circuit with the help of German track designer Hermann Tilke.

Fuji hosted the 1976 title-deciding race that crowned Britain's James Hunt as champion but has been absent from Formula One since 1977 when an accident involving Sweden's Ronnie Peterson and Canadian Gilles Villeneuve killed two spectators.

Suzuka staged the Japanese Grand Prix since 1987 -- when Formula One returned to the country -- until 2006 before being dropped from the calendar.

Fuji officials expect around 140,000 fans to pack the picturesque circuit on race day next September with a projected three-day total of 280,000.

The circuit boasts the dramatic backdrop of a snow-capped Mount Fuji and nestles among wooded hillsides with limited road access.

To help ease congestions, however, organisers plan to bus fans in from surrounding railway stations and car parks.

Fuji Speedway's president Hiroaki Kato said the circuit offered race-goers a different experience to Suzuka, which is located near the industrial city of Nagoya in western Japan.

"Fuji is in the heart of tourist country," he said. "The facilities are brand new and there is also shopping and even hot springs nearby. Next year will be a new start for F1 in Japan."

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