Rumours suggesting that Fuji International Speedway may have been considering withdrawing from its role as host to the Japanese Grand Prix next year have proved correct, with an official announcement ending the circuit's brief return to the calendar.
Speculation about the venue's future surfaced over the weekend, when it was rumoured that Toyota, which is facing the worst financial results in company history, admitted that it was taking stock of the situation. Although Fuji hosted F1 events in the mid-1970s - including the denouement of James Hunt's 1976 title campaign - it was axed on safety grounds after only two outings, following the deaths of two spectators in 1977.
While Honda-owned Suzuka eventually took up the mantle of host in 1987 - with potential rival Aida only staging the Pacific Grand Prix on a couple of occasions - a sanitised version of Fuji was installed as its replacement following Toyota's arrival in the top flight. The car maker bought the circuit at the same time as it made its F1 debut and worked hard to revamp what had become a 'tired' venue
Once again, however, two events appear to be Fuji's limit, as circuit officials have now issued an official statement confirming the venue's decision to end its involvement with F1 for a second time. As has become increasingly common in the past twelve months, the missive cited the current economic situation as the main reason for its decision, curtailing plans to invest in both the circuit infrastructure and the event itself for the benefit of fans. Fuji was due to begin an event-sharing agreement with Suzuka to alternate staging the Japanese Grand Prix this year.
"Fuji International Speedway Co Ltd announced today that it has cancelled the holding of the F1 Japanese Grand Prix at its circuit in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, where the race was scheduled to be held every other year from 2010," the statement read.
"Based on its experience of having held the F1 Japanese Grand Prix in 2007 and 2008, and on numerous suggestions from the speedway's visitors, Fuji Speedway had planned to improve transportation to and from the venue, heighten the festive atmosphere of its F1 event and introduce other enhancements for the convenience and enjoyment of motor sports fans.
"Unfortunately, because of the considerably worsening business environment triggered by the global economic turndown that started in October last year, and uncertainty about an early economic recovery, Fuji Speedway concluded that, in terms of whether it could continue as a viable business entity, it would be extremely difficult to continue holding the F1 Japanese Grand Prix in a way that would be satisfying to fans.
"From now on, Fuji Speedway intends to devote itself with ever-greater resolve to the promotion of motor sports, by endeavouring to further increase the level of excitement of Formula Nippon, Japanese Super GT and other Japanese races, while planning and holding new races and other events."
The cost of staging an F1 event was understood to have cost the circuit between £15-18m, a figure that Toyota and circuit officials deemed to be beyond reach in times of economic pressure.
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