Suzuka, Japan – Since the early sixties Japanese racing fans have been drawn to Suzuka. A legendary track, drivers say it is among the most technically difficult in the world.
The racing calendar means it often comes late in the Formula One season. So it is here that over the years many championships have been won … and lost.
Heading out for a lap of the track as part of the celebrations was Toshiyuki Shiga, Nissan’s Chief Operating Officer.
He joined a parade of auto industry executives to mark half a century of racing at Suzuka.
“I drove the GT-R,” said Shiga as he climbed out of his car. “Unfortunately there was a fifty kilometer speed restriction. I want to drive more!
Nissan has played its part in Suzuka’s long history. In 1964 at the Japanese Grand Prix a Skyline GT overtook and led a Porsche 904.
It was a big moment for Japanese motor sport fans, showing that the local car industry could take on the best from Europe.
“I was just nine years old at that time but I still remember the big news,” said Shiga. “1964 was the moment Japanese motorisation began. Always Nissan led the initiative with the motorsport. It was my dream, I wanted to enter Nissan. This is an important place for car guys.”
Five decades on and the famous number 39 was back at the circuit on a Skyline GT restored by a team of Nissan volunteers.
And it was reunited with the driver who came second in the race, Yoshikazu Sunako, who beamed as he gunned the engine.
On that day in 1964 he was in the perfect position to watch his colleague’s feat.
“Before the hairpin curve, Ikuzawa overtook the Porsche,” he said. “So I thought, ‘Wow, Ikuzawa, you’re the man.’”
The glory days of Suzuka are not all in the past.
More racing history will be made later this year when the circuit once again hosts Formula One.