By Cheryl Tay
20 June 2011
IT IS the highest level of formula racing in Japan, and drivers from the series used to progress to Formula One. Currently held only in Japan, Formula Nippon will make its way to Singapore when the Changi Motorsports Hub is completed.
Said Hiroshi Shirai, president of Japan Race Promotion: “Our aim is to expand it, beyond Japan, into a prestigious and reputable formula racing series in Asia.
“We are in discussions with (South) Korea and Singapore, but we have to negotiate the Singapore deal again as the initial plan to hold it next May has been changed because of the halt in construction of the Changi track.”
Piling work has been stopped since February because of an outstanding $10-million sum owed by SG Changi, the consortium in charge of building the hub. When contacted, the consortium declined comment.
The first time Formula Nippon ventured outside of Japan was in 2004, when a round was held at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit. However, poor attendance dashed hopes of a return.
This Formula Nippon season saw the debut of former F1 driver Kazuki Nakajima, who is competing with the Petronas Team after a one-year hiatus from racing.
Said the former Williams driver during the series’ second round at the Autopolis International Racing Course two weeks ago: “I did not race at all last year, but continued to maintain my fitness.
“As a Japanese and supported by Toyota, it is only natural that I return to Japan to race. Racing in Japan has always been an option.”
Despite a poor qualifying result, Nakajima made a stunning comeback from 13th place on the grid to take the chequered flag.
He said after his win: “People are expecting me to do a good job and I will try my best.
“Formula Nippon is of a very high standard and the drive is different from F1′s. That said, though, I would like to help promote Japanese racing like Formula Nippon and increase its popularity.”
His father, Satoru, is chairman of the Formula Nippon race organisers.
Said the senior Nakajima: “I believe Formula Nippon is just as competitive, compared to European racing series. “We really want to bring Formula Nippon to Singapore in the near future, and we hope that the circuit will be built soon so we can resume negotiations.”
*This was first published in My Paper.