|1 October 2004
Formula One heads east again next weekend for Round 17 of the 2004 World Championship, the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. Lucky Strike B·A·R Honda is very proud of its Japanese connection via engine and chassis development partner Honda, and of course home-grown hero Takuma Sato. As such the team regards this as its second home race after Sil
verstone and this year’s race in Suzuka will have even greater significance that usual as B·A·R celebrates the milestone of its 100th Grand Prix.
The Honda-owned Suzuka Racing Circuit is situated on Honshu, the largest of the Japanese islands, and is widely regarded as a true drivers’ circuit. Last year, Takuma earned his stripes in his debut race for the team after stepping up from third driver to race driver somewhat earlier than expected. He went on to finish the race in 6th behind 4th placed team-mate Jenson Button, their combined points tally enabling B·A·R to clinch 5th place in the Constructors’ Championship.
The team has come a long way since that race and this year’s Japanese Grand Prix will see B·A·R stepping up its fight for 2nd place in the Championship. The nine-point lead it pulled out over third-placed Renault is still far from comfortable with two races remaining, however, after B·A·R’s thrilling performance in last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, the team has no intention of letting the runner-up prize slip from its grasp.
Jenson Button on the Japanese Grand Prix
“Both Takuma and I are really looking forward to the Japanese Grand Prix. Suzuka is a very special circuit in itself and I think our car and package will work very well there. The change of direction with our car is very good, which is important for the particular characteristics of this circuit. We know we can be fast there having finished fourth and sixth last year, so I am expecting a lot from the race. It’s also going to be very special being Honda’s home grand prix at Honda’s own circuit. We have had some fantastic results this season and hopefully they will continue in Suzuka.”
Takuma Sato on the Japanese Grand Prix
“Suzuka is a great combination of high speed, technical corners and it always produces a very exciting race for both the drivers and the fans. There is a big following for F1 in Japan and personally for me, at my home Grand Prix, the feeling driving there is unbelievable. The fans at Suzuka always support me very well and they are so enthusiastic! After such a great team result in Shanghai last weekend, I am very much looking forward to returning to Japan and to hopefully getting back onto the podium once again.”
David Richards, Team Principal
“We were delighted to play our part in a thrilling F1 baptism for the Chinese last weekend, and of course to extend our lead over Renault to a very pleasing nine-point margin. However, we are certainly not out of the woods yet and we have a tough battle on our hands in the last two Grands Prix. A home Grand Prix gives every team an additional boost and the Japanese Grand Prix is precisely that for B·A·R due to our partnership with Honda, and local hero Takuma. We will be pulling out all the stops to deliver another solid performance next weekend and, whilst Takuma will rightly enjoy the adulation of his enormous fan base, I have no doubt that both he and Jenson will be very focused on the task in hand. By way of an additional incentive, the team is proud to be celebrating its 100th Grand Prix in Japan. It is incredible to think that, last year, we had just 18 points heading into this race and a tribute to the entire team that we have broken the 100-point barrier as we celebrate this important milestone in B·A·R’s short history.”
Geoff Willis, Technical Director
“Despite our 9-point advantage over Renault, second place is certainly not yet guaranteed, so we will be ensuring that we take minimum risks in Suzuka to maintain and, we hope, extend our lead. The B·A·R Honda 006 should be competitive at this circuit, which requires good aerodynamic efficiency, stability and change of direction. We have a number of small developments on the engine and chassis, which we hope will help in qualifying and the race. Despite our confidence in the car’s performance, we expect both the Ferraris and the McLarens to be very strong here as well. Our target, as always, will be to get good points finishes from both cars and possibly a podium place. However, we must keep our primary objective in focus – to leave Suzuka with our lead over Renault extended.”
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development
“We love racing in front of our home crowd at Suzuka, and, as usual, have an extra step on the engine for this race. Takuma has not raced at Suzuka as much as some people think, but has gone well in the last two years, and Jenson drove a great race to 4th last year. We’ll be doing all we can to produce another double points finish.”
Race distance 53 laps. 191.117miles (307.573 km)
Circuit length 3.608 miles (5.807 km)
Built by Honda as a test circuit in 1962, the Suzuka circuit was designed by John Hugenholtz, a Dutchman who also produced Zandvoort and Jarama. The circuit is just one component of a giant amusement park and other facilities, and is situated on Honshu, by far the largest of the Japanese islands, which is also home to Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka.
Suzuka has an 18-turn, figure-of-eight course that is unique in F1. It begins with a fast 7th gear bend that tightens to lead into a series of fast S-bends. Spoon Curve and the legendary 130R are the other great challenges on this popular driver’s circuit.
Overtaking is normally done in the 50mph Casio Triangle chicane at the end of the lap. More difficult passing moves can be performed into the 140mph First Corner and very occasionally at the Turn 11 Hairpin.
In 2002, the circuit was reduced in length, courtesy of the 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 re-profiling continued with 130R, tweaked into a two-radii sweeper to provide a faster and more fluent corner with an earlier turn-in. More changes were made at the revised Casino Triangle chicane, which is now more open than before. These alterations have added about 3 metres to the overall lap, but the lap record was still comprehensively beaten last year.
Honda F1 Highlights
– Suzuka is the home of the Suzuka Circuit Racing School Formula whose graduates include Takuma Sato.
– Suzuka circuit was built by Honda in 1962 and was the first full-scale race track in Japan.
– Takuma Sato is looking for his third consecutive points finish in the Japanese GP. He scored his first-ever championship points with a fifth place for Jordan Honda in 2002, and followed it with sixth place on his B·A·R Honda race debut last year.
Honda-powered drivers have won the Japanese Grand Prix three times; Ayrton Senna in 1988 and 1989; Gerhard Berger in 1991.