Fuji pulls plug on Japanese GP

Fuji International Speedway has pulled the plug on hosting the Japanese Grand Prix in the future, track officials confirmed on Tuesday

Fuji pulls plug on Japanese GP

The circuit had been planning to share the event with Suzuka, having held the last two Japanese GPs, but the global economic downturn that has affected track owners Toyota has forced a rethink.

A statement on the circuit's website said that although planning had already been underway for the 2010 event, the track had no option but to abandon its plans.

"In view of the sharply deteriorating business conditions and few signs of a rapid economic recovery, we decided it would be extremely difficult to continue holding the F1 Japanese Grand Prix," said the statement.

Fuji returned to the F1 calendar in 2007, following huge efforts by Toyota to revamp the circuit.

Lewis Hamilton won that first event amid torrential conditions, while Fernando Alonso took a surprise win for Renault in last year's event following a chaotic first corner.

Fuji said its focus now would be on holding Formula Nippon and Super GT events.

Hiroaki Kato, president of the Fuji track, could not hide his disappointment at the decision that brings an early end to the track's return to the F1 schedule.

"After only having announced barely three years ago, in March 2006, that Fuji Speedway would hold the F1 Japanese Grand Prix, it is heart-wrenching that we were not able to avoid the decision to abandon our plans to hold the race from 2010," he said.

"To the people who attended the event at Fuji Speedway last year and the year before, to those who were looking forward to the event there in the future, and to all those locally and elsewhere who granted us their immense understanding and encouragement, I deeply apologize for a result not commensurate with your expectations.

"At the same time, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for your kind support.

"Fuji Speedway intends to devote itself with even greater intensity to promote motor sports. For this, we humbly seek your continued understanding."

Suzuka is due to hold this year's Japanese GP, and the future of the country's race will now depend on whether the track's owners Honda wish to bankroll the event in the future - having already pulled out of F1.

Toyota's decision to stop the bankrolling of the Fuji event, which Reuters has suggested was costing it around £12-£18 million GBP, come against the backdrop of the company expecting overall losses of £5.5 billion GBP in the business year to March 2010.

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