The Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami near the Honshu Prefecture in Japan certainly caused serious devastation throughout the entire country, and continues to be a source of chaos and disruption. Takuma Sato has been working very hard all season long to bring awareness and raise money for those who are suffering as a result, and recently on Bump Day in Indianapolis, he was signing t-shirts sold for a fundraiser for the children of Japan. You can learn more about Takuma’s and KV Racing Technologies efforts to help at http://kvracingtechnology.homestead.com/2011/2K11_About_WithYouJapan.html.
Of course, the human cost and disruption of lives is far more important than anything in motorsports, but the quake did affect motorsports and Indy Car racing as well. The IZOD IndyCar Series makes a regular trip to Japan every year to race on the asymmetric 1.5-mile oval at Twin Ring Motegi. The earthquake earlier this year severely damaged the oval circuit, so INDYCAR has decided that they’ll still go to Japan, but run on the Motegi road circuit instead, the same circuit run by MotoGP. While I’m happy that we won’t be losing an event, I am sad that this continues to push the oval/road balance more to the twisty side of the scale. To be sure, there are extenuating circumstances here, but its a step that will cause many USAC and old IRL fans to cry out and scream foul. I understand their frustration, and being a fan of both ovals and road/street circuits, I too would like to see a balance maintained. However, in this case, the solution reached by Motegi and the league is far better than having no race at all!
What remains to be seen is how good the racing will actually be on the narrow motorcycle circuit. As we saw at Barber, motorcycle and sportscar circuits can lead to some fun-to-watch chaos, but don’t always lend themselves to good racing action. What may help the situation is the nature of the turns at Motegi. Basically, its a series of hairpins separated by long straights. The current Dallara/Honda package can brake very hard, but with the reduction of power of the Honda Indy V8 over the past years, accelerating out of the turns will be an issue. At least we’ll still be racing!
IZOD INDYCAR SERIES TO RUN ROAD COURSE AT MOTEGI
INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, June 3, 2011) – The IZOD IndyCar Series announced today that it will run the 2.98-mile, natural-terrain road course during its final visit to the Twin Ring Motegi motorsports facility in Japan on Sept. 18.
The race was scheduled for the 1.5-mile, egg-shaped oval, but it sustained damage during the March earthquakes. Raised ridges to the track surface prevent the IZOD IndyCar Series cars from competing on the oval.
“In conjunction with Mobilityland, we have made the decision to move forward with our race in Motegi after closely monitoring the on-going situation in Japan for several months,” said Randy Bernard, CEO, INDYCAR. “After weighing a variety of options, we felt it was best to move the race to the road course. We understand that Japan is steadily moving forward with reconstruction and we look forward to entertaining our strong fan base at Motegi with our inaugural run on the road course.”
“We have decided to change the racing track for the Indy Japan 300 this year to the road course,” said Hiroshi Oshima, president of Mobilityland Corp. “We had examined the option of restoration work to the oval, but considering the large scale public works impact on society in this circumstance and the cost entailed, we felt it was best to move the race to the road course. Though we have been forced to change what we have been doing by the earthquake disaster, we will make sure our fans experience another exciting race.”
Earlier this year the IZOD IndyCar Series announced that the Sept. 18 race will be its final race at the facility. Twin Ring Motegi, which is owned by Mobilityland Corp., opened in 1997 and has played host to open-wheel events since 1998.