Tetsuya Nishimura adds:
I don't race, and I don't have a racing license, but I have run the Suzuka Circuit a few times. This is how:
Attend the Honda Motorcyclist School (HMS) and a circuit run session is included in the program using Honda bikes they provide (VFR750K, etc.).
A Basic Course includes slalom, braking, trial, and high speed run in the Suzuka Circuit. The cost is about Y23,000 as of 1990, which includes one night stay at the Suzuka Circuit Hotel, three meals, training wear, protective gear other than your helmet, boots, and gloves, and choice of motos used through the session. [WARNING: NOTE THAT YOUR SIZES MIGHT NOT BE AVAILABLE -- CHECK IN ADVANCE] If you drop and break the bike, you simply go to the garage and pick another one.
Some Basic Course schedules run for three days, and of course, cost more. The Basic Course is highly recommended for riders with some experience with bikes but wants to improve skills, and the Advanced Course for those who want more improvements in their skills. There is also a Beginner Course that accommodates novice riders.
No contact info available at the moment. Look for info and number for:
Honda Motor Cyclist School, or Suzuka Koutsuu Kyouiku Center (Suzuka Traffic Education Center) (鈴鹿 交通 教育 センター) The center/school is located on the Suzuka Circuit Land, right next to the Internatinal Racing Course.
TV COVERAGE During the GP season, motorcycle racing on most Sunday night sometimes after midnight.
Contributed by John Crossley:
The most famous race-course in Japan is Suzuka, in Mie Prefecture (三重県) (several hours due east of Kyoto, a bit south-west of Nagoya). Each year both the Japanese round of World Grand Prix racing and an 8-Hour Endurance race (Hachitai ８耐, short for HACHIJIKANTAIKYUU ８時間耐久) are held there. The GP is usually around the end of April, and the Hachitai around the end of July. The Hachitai generally runs from about 11:30 to 19:30; for the GP, GP2 starts at around 12, GP1 at around 13:15, and GP3 at around 14:30.
There is a range of seating, from semi-covered grandstand bleachers at start-finish to grassy areas scattered around the course. The grandstand consists of S1, S2, and A seats. S1 is grandstand bleacher seating directly at start-finish facing a large TV screen, and partially covered by a roof; S2 is grandstand bleacher seating just down the course from S1; A seating is grandstand bleacher seating just up the course from S1. The B1 stand is up-course of the grandstand, between the final corner and the grandstand; the C stand is yet further up-course, in front of the chicane. The D stand is at the end of the straight, by the entrance to Turn 1. Stand E is right on Turn 1. Stand F is on the short straight out of Turn 1 before the S Curve.
I generally use A seating, which offers a good view of the straight, the bikes coming out of the chicane (final corner), and from which the large TV screen is mostly visible, so you can always keep track of the front-runners.
Row numbering starts from the top of the bleachers; in general higher seats are better, so go for low-numbered rows. A trick: try to get the uppermost row in a given block. For example, in Stand A, Row 10 is midway down but the first in its block so there's no-one sitting immediately behind you. This makes it relatively easily gotten to, and you can set small bags and such behind you or lean back against the railing.
The Hachitai pit walk has been from 7:15 to 9 in the morning. The GP pit walk has been from 8:10 to 8:50, although I've not done it personally. Tickets for GP/Hachitai pit walk cost 1,500 yen, can be purchased at a special little booth not that far from the wickets where they check entrance passes. There is a limited number of tickets (usually around 2,000) and they sell out quickly, so get there well before the pit walk is scheduled to start. The queue for the pit walk is rather long, and the pit itself fills up with people quite quickly, so that it can be difficult to get a really good look at bikes, especially in pits that also have umbrella girls. Basically, if you don't like getting elbowed a lot, don't do it [ depends on who's doing the elbowing :-) ]
The Hachitai has a course walk after the race. The officials open the gates in front of the grandstand almost immediately after the last bikes cross the finish line, and spectators can go out and stand on the course (inside a certain area) as the riders come back into the pits. Typically people cross out of the safety area before the last of the riders has come in, and the officials controlling the crowd seem resigned to this. You can get right up next to the riders as they come in, but obviously it's better not to make a nuisance of oneself: the riders are exhausted and probably not in much of a mood for fiddling their bike through a crowd.
Like so many things in Japan, tickets are expensive. Expect to pay about 11,000 yen for entrance (入場券) and another 5,000 to 12,000 yen if you want reserved seating (指定席). Tickets can be purchased from some JR Midori no Madoguchi, Ticket Pia, etc. Probably one should avoid using JR, as they tend to not know what tickets are necessary, where seats are, etc. Prices are the same everywhere anyway. For both the GP and the Hachitai one can buy either multi-day or 1-day entrance tickets. In general the multi-day tickets are only about 1,000 yen more expensive than the 1-day.
Getting There & Away
There's any number of ways of getting to the course, but unfortunately none of them are terribly straight-forward. Coming from anywhere distant, probably the best start is taking the Shinkansen to Nagoya station. From there the JR Kansai-sen can be taken to Shirako station. On days of races, special buses run directly from Shirako to the track. Alternatively, one can try taking the Ise-tetsudo railway from Yokkaichi to the Suzuka Circuit Inou station (from whence it's an easy 1.5 km walk to the track), but Ise-tetsudo runs *very* infrequently (sometimes as little as once every other hour), so in general it's best to avoid any plans involving it. There may also be some JR trains that run from Yokkaichi to the Circuit station, but these are probably special ones that run only on race days. Returning from the GP is relatively easy: immediately after the last race, walk to the Suzuka Circuit Inou station. There are special trains that run directly to Nagoya station, and getting there quickly means that you will get on the first one and may even be able to get a seat. It takes about one-and-a-half hours from Suzuka Circuit Inou to Nagoya. Transportation to and from the Hachitai can be more problematic. Because it starts earlier and runs later than the GP, in general the Shinkansen is not usable to make a day trip out of it, at least not from Tokyo. Some companies run package tours which include overnight bus or train to/from the course, and these are relatively easy, but of course some degree of Japanese is necessary to book through such companies. I use Suzuka Circuit Land tour company, and they have been acceptable. Riding or driving there is another option. From Nagoya take the Higashi Meihan expressway to the Yokkaichi exit, and then follow Route 477 to Route 23 and head South along 23 to Suzuka-shi. From Route 23 in Suzuka-shi there's a road leading West, straight to the racetrack; it's well-marked, just keep your eyes open for a large blue traffic sign indicating the turn. There are grassy parking areas run by the local residents, as well as proper paved parking lots with plenty of separate motorcycle parking, run by the racetrack. The latter costs only 500 yen (for a bike), is relatively close to the entrance, and there's probably less chance of a bike falling over. Traffic for the GP is generally not too bad, but the Hachitai can be terrible. And don't think that having a bike will mitigate that, because just about everybody else is on bikes too!
The weather at Suzuka generally seems to be both hot and windy. Especially at the Hachitai in July, it can be *incredibly* hot and humid; plan on drinking lots of fluids, and bring your sunscreen and a hat with a brim. Even in April it can be uncomfortably hot. And of course rain is always a possibility; for the wealthy, large gaudy umbrellas can be purchased at the track, others may want to consider bringing their own.
Suzuka Circuit Business Offices-- Mie: 0593-78-1111, Nagoya: 052-571-7176, Osaka: 06-372-1526, Tokyo: 03-3582-3221,
Suzuka Circuit Land (Tours/Tickets)-- Mie Tel: 0593-78-1111, Tokyo Tel: 03-3271-8399 (Tours), Tokyo Tel: 03-3271-5888, Tokyo Fax: 03-3271-9877,
Ticket Pia-- Tokyo: 03-5237-9999, Osaka: 06-363-9999, Nagoya: 052-320-9999, Fukuoka: 092-708-9999
Ticket Sezon--Tokyo: 03-5990-9999, Osaka: 06-308-9999, Nagoya: 052-264-8210,
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