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Japan’s Formula One future secured as Valencia seeks date change

24 August 2009 | Posted in Notes & Insights | By David Cushnan | Contact the author

Formula One commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone has secured a deal that will see the Japanese Grand Prix remain on the calendar for the next three years. Ecclestone met with officials from the Suzuka circuit at last weekend’s European Grand Prix in Valencia, afterwards confirming that the circuit – which has recently undergone a multi-million upgrade – will host a Formula One race until at least 2011.

The future of the Japanese race – traditionally one of the most popular on the calendar – had been in some doubt after the Fuji International Speedway, host of the race since 2007, announced it would no longer be able to host the event for financial reasons.

Fuji, which is owned by Toyota Motor Corp., had previously reached a deal with Ecclestone to alternate the hosting of the race with Suzuka, owned by a subsidiary of Honda called Mobilityland Corporation. The 2009 Japanese Grand Prix will be hosted by Suzuka in October.

Ecclestone said: "I have done, and will continue to do, everything to make the Japanese Grand Prix successful."

Hiroshi Oshima, the Honda executive who is now president of Mobilityland Corp., added: "We are delighted that the Suzuka circuit will now safeguard one of the most important national sporting events."

Meanwhile Sunday's European Grand Prix, the second to be held on the streets of Valencia, attracted a race day crowd of 81,231 and around 160,000 over the three days of the meeting. Whilst well short of the estimated 100,000 who attended last year's inaugural race, the crowd numbers are still better than many predicted given the fraught build-up to the event.

Over the weekend, Valencia officials revealed that the local economy had been boosted by €403 million because of the 2008 Grand Prix. Nevertheless they are believed to have requested a switch next year from the race's current August date to October. Hosting the event outside the traditional European holiday season would likely make the race more attractive for visitors and the city.

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