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Paddock Postcard from Fuji Speedway - updated 30 Sep 2007

Takuya Kimura (JPN) 
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Fuji Speedway, Fuji, Japan, Saturday, 29 September 2007 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22 with Leo Sayer (GBR) Singer
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Fuji Speedway, Fuji, Japan, Thursday, 27 September 2007

On the rare occasions when it has been visible this weekend, Fuji-yama has added a dramatic dimension to the Japanese Grand Prix, but not as dramatic as the weather. Memories have been stirred about the 1976 race already!

Commemorating that, there was a ‘team’ photo of people who were there, and it included the likes of Bernie Ecclestone, Frank Williams, Tyler Alexander, Niki Lauda, Daniele Audetto, Herbie Blash, Charlie Whiting and veteran writer Heinz Pruller.

Fans thrilled when Japan’s answer to Brad Pitt, Takuya Kimura, paid a visit to the paddock on Saturday. The star of popular TV drama, Hero, the 34 year-old was also a member of Eighties pop group SMAP.

“Mount Fuji is a special place for us, and the racetrack inherits some of that magic, so there was no question about me coming to the first Grand Prix at the revamped Fuji Speedway,” said Kimura. “And despite the difficult weather conditions I enjoyed my stay here as much as my Japanese countrymen filling the grandstands, on the edge of their seats watching their heroes speeding by in an amazing cloud of spray - a vision that will remain in our memory for a very long time.”

Another even more popular crooner in Fuji was Leo Sayer, who popped over from Sydney to see his old mates and amused those of them in the media during Saturday's damp qualifying session.

“If my voice hadn’t paid the rent I would have probably tried a racing career," said Sayer. "At least my size would have been a good argument for trying! Instead I made performing my profession and racing my passion. And Japan is almost just around the corner from my new home, Sydney, so it was a quick decision to come here.”

Sayer also enjoyed a traditional ‘Kagamibiraki’ ceremony on Sunday morning when circuit Chairman and former Toyota team principal Tsutomu Tomita opened a key of sake for them to imbibe. After the race Sayer entertained a victorious Lewis Hamilton and his McLaren crew with a rendition of one of his biggest hits, 'When I need you'. The line “It’s not easy when the road is your driver, honey that’s a heavy load that we bear" seemed to strike a particular chord.

Superstar fashion photographer and style icon Michel Comte has visited more than 400 races, but shows no sign of stopping. “The racing bug caught me when I was seven years old,” he explained. “I was in the hospital with a broken arm when Swiss racing legend Jo Siffert made a goodwill visit and signed my plaster. He was so touched by my enthusiasm that he invited me to the next race. That’s when it started.

“Since then I have become friends with many of the stars, notably Michael Schumacher, whom I persuaded to do a book together on his career. ‘7/91’ (seven championship titles and 91 race wins) will be out in the next couple of weeks and shows in him many facets that outsiders would never imagine. I feel great respect for these headstrong young men who live on the limit. I have many favourites, but my all-time favourite is Jochen Rindt. He had it all: looks, attitude, killer instinct - the perfect individual to become a hero!”