Fuji Speedway is the place to be this time of the year as two of the biggest events of the calendar are hosted at the international circuit. I am of course talking about the Toyota Motorsports Festival and the Nismo Festival, which this year are held within two weeks of each other. This past weekend was Toyota’s turn, which managed to attract a pretty impressive 28,000 people to the freezing race track in order to celebrate the past year’s achievements in motorsport…
…like in the Super GT race series…
…but most importantly to officially end its involvement in Formula 1 by giving fans a final glimpse of the 2009 cars before they are put to rest and stored away.
I got there nice an early despite the crazy traffic on the highway, due to the majority of the population of Tokyo deciding to head out of the city for the long weekend. With temperatures hovering a few degrees above zero, and with gray menacing clouds I was ready for the worst. Luckily however, what little rain fell, immediately stopped and we even got to see a few glimpses of the sun in the afternoon.
There is no doubt that 2009 is the year of the Lexus LFA. Since its unveiling at the Tokyo Motorshow last month everyone has been talking about it and Toyota knew exactly what the fans wanted to see. So as I made my way through the pits before the main opening ceremony kicked off, it was the two race LFA’s I headed to check out first.
We have all seen these Nurbugring 24h race cars before, but I finally had a chance to really take in the details. Here is a closer look at those snout-mounted supplementary headlights, just what you need when blasting over blind crests on the Nordschleife at night!
Both race cars were driven throughout the day on the track, at one point even by Toyota president Akio Toyoda, who also piloted the LFA at the 2008 Nurburgring 24h race.
These Gazoo Racing cars are painted matte white and black and are still battle scared from the German endurance race. There are some small styling differences between these and the final production car, something we will see in a later post.
I grabbed this shot of the Key’s Racing steering wheel through the opening in the plastic side window. There are no creature comforts, nor nice suede and carbon fiber trim in here, it’s all pure race-slash-development-car.
Toyota has been involved in F1 since 2002 and first competed with this car, the TF101, which scored a point in the first race it participated in. However, Toyota’s F1 career has not been a very fortunate one, it has never won a race in the 8 years it competed and the highest ever result was a second place on the podium in 2005.
I got a chance to check out this year’s V8-powered F1 machine…
…and get my eardrums blown by the noise from the impact gun as one of the mechanics was tightening the wheel nut. Check out the ear protection he is wearing, I could have done with something like that!
This message says it all.
The details on an F1 car are simply incredible; every square millimeter has been designed with some kind of aerodynamic function. Just look all those little winglets on the side of the front spoiler.
As the opening ceremony kicked off famous race drivers began to drive cars onto the main straight…
…one of them was Kazuki Nakajima, or Nakajima Junior, who has spent the last two years with the Williams F1 team.
Toyota didn’t forget drifting, inviting some of the top D1 drivers that drive or have driven (in Ueno’s case) Toyotas. They put on a nice drift exhibition later on in the day, but more on this tomorrow.
Toyota has been a fighting force in the Japanese GT championship and all Super GT GT500 and GT300 drivers were present, like Irishman Richard Lyons and Yuji Tachikawa of team Zent along with Andre Lotterer and Juichi Wakisaka of the Tom’s Petronas team, all drivers of the Lexus SC430.
F1 driver Jarno Trulli was escorted onto the main straight on board the brand new Mark X, the successor to the Mark II, that has now been on sale in Japan since 2004.
Toyoda-san gave a speech, apologizing to the fans for Toyota’s poor performance in F1. He then personally thanked Trulli for all his efforts and his great service to the team.
Managed to grab a few pictures of the GT500 SC430s before they were rushed off from the straight…
…as well as that crazy looking Corolla Axio that races in the lower GT300 class.
The proportions are all wrong but it just looks so cool out in action!
For the first session Super GT cars went out with the Formula Nippon single seaters…
…overtaking the busses at full speed to give the people that signed up for the “tour” quite a sight.
Here is Richard Lyons blasting down the Fuji back straight on board his Zent Cerumo SC430. The team finished in 10th position in this year’s championship.
Once the Super GT cars and busses had returned to the pits it was time for some F1 action…
…with Trulli and Kamui Kobayashi driving at full pace for five laps. Words cannot describe the feeling of having a modern-day F1 car speed past you along the Fuji straight! I had to put the camera down at one point and just enjoy it!
That is it for Part 1, make sure you come back tomorrow for a more detailed look through the pits and paddock of Fuji Speedway.
-Dino Dalle Carbonare