Paddock postcard from Suzuka 12 Oct 2003
Suzuka Circuitland has always had the air of a motor racing track within a fun park, with the rollercoasters and the gravity launch visible from the area inside the circuit. Japan boasts some of the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic Formula One racing fans in the world and loyalty to teams and drivers is very strong here.
The paddock has seen some Japanese celebrities together with several old Formula One faces. Jacques Laffite is here with Renault, together with Marc Surer, Jonathan Palmer and Hans Stuck, while fellow countryman Erik Comas, who races for Toyota in Japan, also made an appearance. So did Richard Divilla, who designed Emerson Fittipaldi's cars and then Ligiers, and now runs Nissan's sportscar team here.
Formula Nippon champion Satoshi Motoyama created a massive amount of interest when he drove one of Eddie Jordan's EJ13s in private testing on Friday morning, and Takuma Sato's premature appearance at BAR had the same effect.. The 26 year-old Japanese star earned undying popularity here last year when he scored his first-ever championship points with fifth place for Jordan, and few doubt that he replaced former champion Jacques Villeneuve at BAR at the request of BAR engine suppliers Honda. Having a Japanese driver back in Formula One will be a major boost for the sport in Japan.
There have also been very heavy presences from the two Japanese teams. The main Board of Toyota is here, together with senior personnel from Honda.