The FIM has announced that Suzuka, the traditional home of the season opening Japanese Grand Prix, has been removed from the 2004 calendar.

The circuit has faced massive criticism following the death of Daijiro Kato in this year's event, and serious injuries to Marco Melandri and Alex Barros after they also hit trackside barriers in the preceding practice sessions.

As a result, Suzuka was faced with making considerable safety alterations to avoid a possible strike by the riders - many of whom believe the latest breed of 240hp racers have simply outgrown the circuit.

The FIM state that the modifications will not be complete before 2005, and that therefore the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix will instead be held at Motegi on September 19 (when Motegi had been due to hold the 'Pacific GP').

The 16 round 2004 season will now start at Welkom, South Africa, on April 18.

The full FIM statement can be seen below:

"The Suzuka Circuit has established a long-term programme of works including various modifications aiming at improving the circuit, principally the safety in view of the Grand Prix counting towards the Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix.

"This programme of modifications to improve safety has been discussed at length with the Grand Prix Safety Commission. These modifications, however, cannot be carried out before the Grand Prix originally scheduled in April next. For this reason, an agreement has been reached according to which the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix, originally scheduled on 4 April next, will not take place on the circuit of Suzuka.

"The FIM created the Grand Prix Safety Commission last May. The role of this Grand Prix Safety Commission is to work on improving the safety around the Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix circuits, following the evolution of Grand Prix racing in recent years, and particularly due to a recent technical evolution which includes an increase in performances of the new MotoGP motorcycles.

"In this aspect, the FIM requested the MSMA (Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers' Association) to review the technical regulations taking into account the general performances and behaviour of the racing motorcycles and its consequences on safety.

"Regarding the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix, the circuit of Suzuka and the FIM will keep on the discussions in an effort to organise this Grand Prix again as the season opener on the circuit of Suzuka.

"Moreover, in agreement with the FIM and Dorna, the Grand Prix scheduled on the circuit of Twin Ring Motegi on 19 September 2004 will bear the title of Japanese Grand Prix (instead of Pacific Grand Prix)."

Revised provisional 2004 calendar

April 18 South Africa Welkom
May 2 Spain Jerez de la Frontera
May 16 France Le Mans
May 30 Italy Mugello
June 13 Catalunya Catalunya
June 26 * Netherlands Assen
July 11 Great Britain Donington Park
July 18 Germany Sachsenring
July 31 * Rio Jacarepagu?
August 22 Czech Rep. Brno
September 5 Portugal Estoril
September 19 Japan Motegi
October 2 * Qatar Qatar
October 10 Malaysia Sepang
October 17 Australia Phillip Island
October 31 Valencia Valencia

Key:
*: Saturday race.

 

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