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Japanese Grand Prix - facts and figures 08 Oct 2003

Mika Salo (FIN) Toyota TF102 leads Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Jordan Honda EJ12.
Japanese Grand Prix, Rd 17, Suzuka, 13 October 2002

• Not only is Suzuka is the only current Formula One racing circuit to feature a figure-of-eight layout, it is also the only track to lie within a theme park. Suzuka Land, with its spectacular Ferris wheel and rollercoasters, was originally built to entertain the families and workers from the nearby Honda factory.

• The Suzuka track is in fact owned by Honda. It was originally designed by John Hugenholtz (the Dutchman who also produced Zandvoort and Jarama) as a test circuit for the Japanese motor manufacturer. Built in 1962, it was the first full-scale race track in Japan and staged its first Japanese Grand Prix in 1987.

• The city of Suzuka lies on the south east coast of the Japanese main island, Honshu, and is part of Mie Prefecture. Suzuka's commerce is focused on food, textiles and the Honda assembly plants. Today the city is home to an estimated 184,000 inhabitants. Suzuka is also home to a medical university and Buddhist temples & Shinto shrines.

• Overtaking at Suzuka is normally done into the slowest corner on the track, the 65 kph (40 mph) Casio Triangle chicane at the end of the lap. More difficult passing moves can be performed into the 225 kph (140mph) First Corner and very occasionally at the Turn 11 Hairpin.

• In 2002, the circuit was reduced in length, courtesy of some realigning of several key corners to provide greater run-off areas. Retaining walls were also moved back and the track slightly altered at the S-Curves and Dunlop Curves. For 2003, this programme of modernisation and reprofiling has continued with 130R, tweaked into a two-radii sweeper to provide a faster and more fluent corner and an earlier turn-in. More changes come at the revised Casino Triangle chicane, which is now more open than before. These alterations have cut a further 14 metres from last year's lap, but it is unclear how much that will affect overall lap times.

• Japanese driver Takuma Sato, who will race for BAR next season, scored his maiden Formula One points in his first home grand prix last year. Prior to that, the last time a Japanese driver scored points at Suzuka was in 1990 when Aguri Suzuki finished third for Lola, with compatriot Satoru Nakajima sixth for Tyrrell. Nakajima was the first Japanese driver to race regularly in Formula One racing, partnering Ayrton Senna in the Lotus-Honda team from the start of 1987.

• Suzuka is the home of Honda's Racing School whose graduates include the aforementioned Takuma Sato.

• The most successful driver in Japan is Michael Schumacher. The world champion has won at Suzuka on five occasions - with Benetton in 1995 and with Ferrari in 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2002.

• McLaren have won more Japanese Grands Prix than any other team - six to be precise. The first came at Fuji in 1977 with James Hunt, then at Suzuka with Ayrton Senna in 1988 and 1993, with Gerhard Berger in 1991 and with Mika Hakkinen in 1998 and 1999.

• The 1989 Japanese Grand Prix saw Alessandro Nannini take his first and only Formula One win. He finished second on the road, but then inherited victory after Senna was disqualified following his infamous clash at the chicane with team mate Alain Prost.

• Suzuka has been the home of the Japanese Grand Prix since 1987, but prior to this two races were held at the Mount Fuji track in 1976 and 1977. The only other Japanese circuit to stage a Formula One race was the TI Circuit Aida where the Pacific Grand Prix was held in 1994 and 1995.

• Japan is no stranger to earthquakes and minor trembles are a common occurrence. The Formula One paddock was 'lucky' enough to experience a small 'quake during the 2000 Grand Prix weekend at Suzuka.

• Honour is at stake this weekend between two of Japan's (and hence the world's) biggest auto manufacturers. The Honda-powered BAR team lie joint sixth in the constructors' standings, just four points ahead of home rivals Toyota, who are currently eighth.

• This weekend will see McLaren's David Coulthard equal the record for the most grand prix starts with one team. He will match the 132 race total achieved by Jacques Laffite with Ligier.