Japanese Grand Prix Betting

Entering its 27th season in 1976, the FIA World Championship of Formula One racing was ready to expand into Asia and Japan was selected as its launch point. The country had been undergoing rapid economic expansion and was ready to host a world-class motor sports event. It was determined that the very first Japanese F1 Grand Prix would be held at a track that had been constructed for NASCAR-style racing in the foothills of famous Mount Fuji in the 1960s—the scenic Fuji Speedway, 64 kilometres to west of Yokohama. To add to the excitement, the Japanese event was scheduled as the 16th and last leg of FIA’s season, making it the site for deciding that year’s champion driver.

In preparation for the historic race, the course at Fuji Speedway was shortened from 6.0 to 4.36 kilometres and the number of turns was reduced from 15 to just eight. This would allow for higher speeds and faster laps, in anticipation of a grand showdown between the top F1 competitors, who turned out to be Britain’s James Hunt and Austria’s Niki Lauda—much later the subjects of Ron Howard’s 2013 blockbuster movie “Rush.”

On 24 October 1976, a heavy rain was falling and water began pooling on the asphalt, which made the track even more treacherous. At the end of the second lap, Lauda pulled into the pits and retired, claiming that conditions were too dangerous for racing. Then, Brazilians Emerson Fittipaldi and Carlos Pace also withdrew. But Hunt kept on racing, dueling with Mario Andretti of the United States in the downpour and finishing second behind the American to gain enough points to pass Lauda and win the F1 Driver’s Title.

In 1977, the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji was again scheduled as the last leg of the season, but by early October, Lauda had already amassed enough points to win the driver’s championship, so he sat out the race. That left Andretti and Hunt to battle once more for the checkered flag, but the American was involved in a crash on the second lap and the race was further marred by the death of two spectators when Canadian Gilles Villeneuve collided with Sweden’s Ronnie Peterson. Hunt ended up winning the race by a wide margin, but a shadow hung over the track and Japan dropped off the F1 calendar the following year.

It was not until 1987 that Japan returned to Grand Prix competition, this time at a former Honda test track in Mie Prefecture that had been revamped for Formula One racing—the Suzuka International Racing Course or “Suzuka Circuit.” Although the event was no longer last on the calendar, that honour going to Australia, the race on 1 November turned out to be a decider, won by Austria’s Gerhard Berger and giving Brazil’s Nelson Piquet enough points to claim the 1987 World Championship for Drivers when his rival Nigel Mansell of Great Britain crashed heavily in practice, incurring a back injury that put him out for the last two races of the season.

Since then, the Japanese Grand Prix has been stated at Suzuka on two dozen occasions, dominated by two drivers from Germany—Michael Schumacher with six victories between 1995 and 2003, and more recently Sebastian Vettel with wins in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013. Other great drivers to post multiple wins here include Brazil’s Ayrton Senna (1988, 1993), Britain’s Damon Hill (1994, 1996) and Finland’s Mika Häkkinen (1998-99).

For two seasons in 2007~08, the Japanese Grand Prix returned briefly to the Toyota-owned Fuji Speedway, which had been redesigned by renowned circuit architect Hermann Tilke. Those two editions were won by Britain’s Lewis Hamilton and Spain’s Fernando Alonso, respectively. The plan was to alternate venues between Suzuka and Fuji, but in 2009 the latter found itself in financial difficulties and withdrew from the F1 calendar. As a result, there is now only one venue for FIA’s F1 World Championship in Japan, and the Grand Prix will continue to be held at the Suzuka Circuit for the foreseeable future. The next race is scheduled for 12 October 2014.

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