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Toyota back on home turf for Japanese Grand Prix

Fuji Speedway replaces Suzuka, Honda's home ground, as the venue for the Japanese GP until 2008, after which the race will alternate between the two circuits.

india Updated: Sep 25, 2007 18:03 IST

Toyota's Formula 1 team will rekindle its rivalry against Honda on its home ground for the first time in 30 years at the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend.

Fuji Speedway has replaced Suzuka, Honda's home ground, as the venue for the Japanese Grand Prix until 2008, after which the race will alternate between the two circuits; it was announced earlier this month.

Toyota's team chairman Tadashi Yamashina on Tuesday welcomed the decision to allow the two venues to host the race alternately.

"The people of Suzuka supported the Grand Prix for a long time. Their effort to stage the race again paid off. It is also good that fans can go to see the race in either region. I feel nostalgia for the race 30 years ago and now F1 came back to the east," he said.

Fuji Speedway, in the foothills of Mount Fuji, opened in 1965 and staged two F1 races in 1976 and again in 1977, when a spectator and steward died after a Ferrari driven by Gilles Villeneuve ploughed into the crowd following a shunt.

Honda has its own circuits at Suzuka, 300 kilometers (185 miles) southwest of Tokyo, and at Twin Ring Motegi, 100 kilometers north of Tokyo.

Honda quit F1 racing in 1992 after eight successful years as an engine supplier but made a comeback in 2000 with an engine for the British American Racing outfit. Last season it started the championship as a full constructor.

Suzuka lost the right to stage the race because it hesitated to invest in renovation that was required for the renewal of the contract, said Honda's motor sports director Hiroshi Oshima.

"It's disappointing for the Suzuka Circuit to have the Grand Prix at Fuji Speedway this year, but it's good for the race to become more popular, because both fans in the east and west (of Japan) can watch the race," said Oshima.

Both Toyota and Honda are expected to struggle on Sunday with either team yet to finish on the podium this season.

"This season has been very tough for us," said Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher of Germany. The results we have seen this year were not what we expected so far, but we have some development for the race. Mount Fuji is a very important race for us."

His Italian teammate Jarno Trulli said: "Our season has been difficult, but we put it behind (us). We are all determined to get the best possible result at Mount Fuji. For that, the Toyota team has been working very hard."

The Honda team has also had a difficult time this season as the McLaren team of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso dominate.

"It's going to be a difficult weekend for us, but we can fight through it and we will do our best," said Honda driver Jenson Button of Britain.

"We had a very tough season, but personally I'm very positive about the next season. There are very good people within the team," he added.

First Published: Sep 25, 2007 17:55 IST