“Toyota Times Editor-in-Chief Teruyuki Kagawa here. Right now, Fuji is the place to be!”
Kagawa’s latest assignment was to visit three Toyota sites in the Fuji area: Fuji Motorsports Forest, Higashi-Fuji Technical Center, and Woven City. Part 1 of this article focuses on Fuji Motorsports Forest, a leisure area being built around the 60-year-old Fuji Speedway.
“Why is this becoming a leisure facility? That’s what I’m here to find out,” says a keen Kagawa.
3 Fuji sites creating Toyota’s future
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Company President Koji Sato greets Kagawa.
Toyota has three sites in the Fuji area: the Higashi-Fuji Technical Center, Woven City, and Fuji Speedway, which hosted a 24-hour endurance race in June 2022. On that occasion, President Akio Toyoda shared the following:
These three sites tend to be seen as the past, present, and future of Toyota’s development efforts, but to me, they are all interconnected as places that create the future.
As Sato explained, the Fuji Motorsports Forest will be a complex of facilities centered on the Fuji International Speedway, including a hotel, museum, garages for racing teams, a café and restaurant, and areas for various mobility experiences.
Rooms with all-night views of the 24-hour race
First up, Kagawa was shown around the Fuji Speedway Hotel, currently under construction. Along with accommodation, the hotel also features a museum and restaurant. General Manager Genta Yoshikawa provided a tour of the Fuji Motorsports Museum.
What will be on display in the museum?
Cars from many different manufacturers.
Many? So not just Toyota?
Not just Toyota.
Although the museum is not yet ready to be shown, it is expected to house some 40 cars spread over two floors. Clearly enjoying himself, Kagawa noted that it might take visitors an hour or more just to reach check-in.
Next, Yoshikawa proudly showed off the Grand Prix Suite rooms, which offer track views from the balcony. Kagawa was thrilled to get so close to the roar of the engines, even though it meant Sato’s comments were drowned out.
Being a hotel, the facility allows overnight guests to watch every minute of a 24-hour race from the comfort of their rooms.
You can watch round-the-clock, right?
I doubt you could sleep.
That's true – the hotel that won't let you sleep!
Even the suite’s bathroom has windows overlooking the speedway, allowing guests to enjoy the action while soaking in the tub. For motorsport fans, there’s nothing else like it. To cap things off says a proud Yoshikawa, the separate hot spring bath is sure to satisfy. The Fuji Speedway Hotel is scheduled to open its doors in October 2022.
Garages give a chance to observe racing teams at work
Next, Kagawa and Sato dropped by the garages, where visitors can see and touch racing cars and even interact with racing team members. They were shown around by ROOKIE Racing Factory Manager Toshiaki Takeda and Senior Manager - Mechanic Toshiyuki Sekiya.
In Akio’s ROOKIE Racing team garage, beside the Super GT machines stood an unexpected addition—a Mazda racing car. It was there as part of Akio’s policy to cooperate with different carmakers for the good of motorsport. Kagawa was taken aback by this spirit of openness.
On the second floor, an area has also been set up for visitors to watch the garage in operation, with glass barriers to ensure that even younger visitors can get a good view. At the rear of the garage is a maintenance training room where mechanics can practice skills such as changing tires. Here too the walls are glass, designed to offer visitors a full view of the training exercises.
You can attract people with talent for this work by making the garage open to the public.
Seeing it as a kid and thinking, “I want to do this,” is a very different starting point to seeing it as an adult. You create that great opportunity by doing this.
According to Sato, a smooth tire change requires a good deal of muscle power. During Kagawa’s visit, the maintenance training room was being used by mechanics Minoshima (experience: 8 years) and Kuromiya (1.5 years). Minoshima demonstrated a textbook tire change, clocking at 4.67 seconds. When urged to give it a shot, the Editor-in-Chief managed 11.71 seconds.
Everyone has to start somewhere.
Even for me, eight years ago, a tire took around ten seconds. It took some five years to get under five seconds.
You have no idea what goes into racing until you try it yourself. When you’re fighting for tenths of a second, things get profound.
The garage also includes a weight room, where mechanic Maeda was quietly going about his workout. He says the strength training helps him keep tires steady during changes. Those who compete in motorsports are, after all, athletes.
Meanwhile, the men’s locker room looked like something out of the major leagues. With space for mechanics, engineers, and drivers, it was based on team owner Akio’s approach of not putting up walls.
Drivers, mechanics, engineers—you have everyone in the same room because the mechanics are athletes too. After all, it’s Motor-SPORTS.
And we're one team.
All to build ever-better cars
In the quest to create ever-better cars through motorsports, ROOKIE Racing and other private teams play an important role in vehicle development. As Sato explained, the common goal for drivers and team members alike goes beyond merely winning races—“We want to obtain skills and know-how that can contribute to the production of cars.” This creates something of a shared bond within the team.
The GAZOO Racing President outlined the reasons for transforming the circuit.
Even before we talk about a carbon neutral society, motorsport—with its role in making ever-better cars—has to be made sustainable. That means joining together with the many people involved in creating a place that generates happiness. In doing so, we hone the technology that leads to the cars of the future. We wanted to turn this racetrack into just such a platform. That idea was our starting point.
But why bring people to Fuji Speedway, create a hotel, and let children roam freely? “Why take it this far?” In response to this question from the Editor-in-Chief, Sato shared Akio’s story of his formative experience.
In 1966, when the Fuji Speedway opened, this was the venue for the 3rd Japanese Grand Prix. Many people came to watch the carmakers battle it out. For Akio Toyoda, it was a formative motorsport experience.
The cars were cool, the drivers stood in the spotlight, and everyone involved, including mechanics and engineers, seemed like stars.
Sato emphasizes that this experience led to Akio’s deep-rooted love of cars.
When taking on a new challenge, passion and enjoyment are great motivators. Perhaps that is why Akio is trying to turn racetracks into places where fun people have fun.
What sets the new garage apart is that people can come and watch. This improves the quality of the team’s work and offers visitors a chance to dream.
When children think about their future careers, it’s easier to envision things they have seen in person. It’s easy to picture a racing driver.
They’ve even seen them in video games.
But what about the mechanics, engineers, and other crucial jobs that make motorsports possible? They don’t really know what these roles entail. By creating a place where people can see and experience them firsthand, we hope that many more people will become interested in motorsports in the future.
As we saw, shaving a few seconds off a single tire change took five years of dedication. That alone makes the sport incredible. Today really brought home the fact that racing is a sport.
The site around the garage remains vacant for now. In the future, however, the vision is to create garages for other teams, along with a café, restaurant, and hot spring facilities. As Kagawa noted with high hopes, “The dream keeps growing.”
Kagawa visits the two other sites in Part 2 : Higashi-Fuji Technical Center and Woven City.