The Toyota-owned Fuji International Speedway circuit will stop hosting the Japanese Grand Prix from next year — the track operators have announced.
Fuji Speedway hosted the Formula One race in 2007 and 2008. The race is set to return to the Honda-owned Suzuka circuit this year, and was due back at Fuji for the 2010 race — as the 16th leg of the 18-race Formula One series. The two venues were originally due to alternate hosting the Japanese Grand Prix but, due to the current downturn in the global economy, Fuji Speedway have confirmed they will no longer host the event. Fuji Speedway opened in 1965. It staged F1 races in 1976 and in 1977, when a spectator and steward died after a Ferrari driven by Gilles Villeneuve ploughed into the crowd. “We decided it would be extremely difficult to continue holding the F1 Japanese Grand Prix in view of sharply deteriorating business conditions and few signs of a rapid economic recovery,” Fuji International Speedway said in a statement. “I apologize deeply for being unable to live up to expectations. It is truly heartbreaking,” Hiroaki Kato, president of the the company that runs the circuit, told reporters. Kato said the economic downturn was causing a dramatic fall in the number of people attending motor sports events as the world’s second-largest economy struggles through its worst recession since World War II.
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“We are afraid that unless we circuit operators and promoters grit our teeth and support domestic motorsports, it will not be able to keep on going,” he added. Toyota’s decision to pull outcomes as the global economic crisis forces Japanese automakers to slash costs. Honda has sold its Formula One team while Suzuki and Subaru have withdrawn from the world rally championship. Motorcycle maker Kawasaki has exited the MotoGP and Mitsubishi is quitting the Dakar Rally despite a dozen victories. Toyota overtook American rival General Motors in 2008 as the world’s top selling automaker but fell into the red for the first time in the year to March with a net loss of 436.9 billion yen ($4.6 billion). It expects a bigger net loss of 550 billion yen this year.