Twin Ring Motegi (ツインリンクもてぎ, Tsuin Rinku Motegi) is a motorsport race track located at Motegi, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. Its name comes from the facility having two race tracks: a 2.493-kilometer (1.549 mi) oval and a 4.8-kilometer (2.98 mi) road course. It was built in 1997 by Honda, as part of the company's effort to bring the IndyCar Series to Japan, helping to increase their knowledge of American open-wheel racing.
The oval course is the only one of its kind in Japan used for competitive racing. It is a low-banked, 1.549-mile-long (2.493 km) egg-shaped course, with turns three and four being much tighter than turns one and two. On March 28, 1998, CART held the inaugural Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi Speedway. The race was won by Mexican driver Adrián Fernández. CART continued racing at Twin Ring Motegi Speedway from 1998–2002. In 2003, Honda entered the Indy Racing League and the race became a part of the IRL schedule. In addition to Indy car racing, the track has also hosted a single NASCAR exhibition race in 1998.
Honda, which had built the oval for the express purpose of developing its oval-racing program for Indy car racing, did not win a race at the track for its first six years of operation. In 2004, Dan Wheldon took the first win for Honda on the oval. In 2008, the Motegi oval gained additional publicity when Danica Patrick became the first woman to win an Indycar race, beating Hélio Castroneves for her first and only Indycar victory.
The 2011 season was the last season of Indycar in Motegi. It had been dropped from the calendar as organizers looked to maximize viewing audiences. The road course, rather than the super speedway, was used for the 2011 race due to damage to the oval track resulting from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake. The oval is not presently used for racing and even has been used as additional parking space during MotoGP events, but is still used for Honda's annual Thanks Day event showcasing various Honda road and racing vehicles, mainly from the nearby Honda Collection Hall, with Takuma Sato running a lap of the course in his 2017 Indianapolis 500 winning car seven years since the last IndyCar race in the oval.
Track length of paved oval
The track length is disputed by series that run at Twin Ring Motegi. The NASCAR timing and scoring use a length of 1.549 miles (2.493 km). This length was used by CART in their races between 1998 and 2002, too. The IRL measured in 2003 a length of 1.52 miles (2.45 km). This length was also used in the following races till 2010.
Mike Skinner won the only NASCAR Cup Series exhibition race held at the track in 1998, the Coca-Cola 500. Skinner won driving the No.31 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. The race was most noted for being the first oval track NASCAR race in Japan as well as being the first in which Dale Earnhardt and his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr., competed with one another, driving No.3 and No.1 Coca-Cola Chevrolets, respectively. The track also held the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 1999 with Kevin Richards getting the win.
The road course is 4.8 kilometers long and is unique in sharing garage and grandstand facilities with the oval course, but being entirely separate otherwise. Although they are separate tracks, it is impossible for races to occur simultaneously on the two courses; to access the oval track, teams must cross the road course pit and front straight. The road course also runs in the opposite direction from the oval; clockwise, rather than counter-clockwise.
The course itself is built in a stop-start straight-hairpin style, which flows differently than many similarly-sized tracks. By Japanese standards the circuit is exceptionally flat, with only a slight elevation rise towards the hairpin turn. The road course is much busier than the oval track, with Super Formula visiting twice, Super GT and Super Taikyu cars once each, and local events almost every weekend. The road course can be used in three ways: the full course, or two "short courses" can be made, using connecting roadways. These short courses are usually used for junior formula events, such as Formula 4 and .
The road course is also a popular motorcycle racing track, with the MotoGP usually visiting once a year, as well as several Japanese national bike racing series. It has hosted the Pacific motorcycle Grand Prix from 2000 to 2003 and the Japanese motorcycle Grand Prix since 2004.
In addition to the main racing complex, Twin Ring Motegi features a second road course (called the "North Short Course") for karting and Formula 4 events, as well as a 1/4 mile dirt track for modified and sprint car racing. In addition, the FIM Trials series visits the track every year for the world trials championship. Therefore, an outdoor trials course exists on the facility.
Outside of racing, Twin Ring has the Honda Collection Hall, which features historic Honda racing and production cars and motorcycles, and , which features Honda's next generation technologies such as robotics, fuel-cell vehicles and aviation. Honda also operates a technology demonstration center on the site, as well as educational centers.
Twin Ring is a separate-but-combined road-and-oval track (as opposed to the "roval" tracks common in the United States), and the decision to include a full road course contained largely within the oval necessitated design compromises. For spectators, sightlines can be extremely poor for road course races, as the grandstands are much further back than usual. The oval course blocks the view of much of the road course, including the best passing point on the track, and several large-screen televisions are needed. Seating outside the grandstand is limited to areas of the infield and along the 750-metre backstraight of the road course.
Track access is a major concern, with only two entry and exit points by a two-lane public road. Motegi is not a particularly large town, and accommodation is virtually non-existent close to the track, except for the on-site hotel. Train links to the area are extremely limited (the major regional lines, JR East and Tobu Railway do not service the area), nor has a planned superhighway been completed. Thus the stated track capacity (about 65,000) is dictated largely by traffic flow, not by actual seating capacity (estimated to be nearly 100,000 for road-course events, 80,000 for the oval).
In 2011 Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo proposed to boycott the MotoGP race out of fears for their health from radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant even though all the independent scientific experts including the World Health Organization and Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency had stated that it is safe to live permanently 80 km or more from the plant. Motegi is more than 120 km from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. In the end, all the teams showed up for the race.
In popular media
As a large recently constructed Japanese circuit, Twin Ring Motegi has and continues to be utilised virtually in a large number of electronic video games, both in arcade machines and in PC and console games for home use.
- In Honda's 2005 Clio Awards winning commercial "Impossible Dream", the sequence in which the BAR Formula One car is driven into the bridge was filmed at the circuit.
- During the opening sequence of Kamen Rider Agito, the three main Kamen Riders are shown riding around the circuit, as Honda is the series sponsor.
- During the ending sequence of Engine Sentai Go-onger, the series' characters are shown dancing on the main straight of the road course. The racetrack is revealed in the series as the primary Go-onger team's origin (it is known that Saki Rouyama, Go-on Yellow, works there), and was used (along with the Honda Collection Hall) in the final scene from "Road Of Justice", the final episode of the series.
- In Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider 3, a race called the Rider Grand Prix will take place in a variation of the Twin Ring Motegi, owned by Shocker in the altered timeline.
- The track is available in racing games such as Forza Motorsport 2, Forza Motorsport 3, Forza Motorsport 4, Gran Turismo 4, Gran Turismo for PSP, Gran Turismo 5, Gran Turismo 6, iRacing.com and RaceRoom Racing Experience.
- During the first tankery battle in Girls und Panzer Das Finale Part 1, Ooarai Girls Academy against BC Freedom High School, members of Leopon Team, the VK 4501 (P) reference the track, saying they wished they re-opened the oval layout.
- Suzuka Circuit, a Honda owned track built in 1962 and host to the FIA Formula One Japanese Grand Prix.
- Fuji Speedway, a road track originally conceived as a high speed oval, and former host to the Japanese Grand Prix.
- "2015 Honda Racing Thanks Day: Takuma & Alonso drove the all-new NSX, production version demo run also conducted". Response.jp. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
- Tate, Adam. "Sato Stars at Honda 'Thanks' Day 2017". Motorsports Tribune. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
- 1998 NASCAR Thunder Special Motegi at racing-reference.info
- 1998 race result on champcarstats.com
- 2003 race result on champcarstats.com
- 2010 race result on champcarstats.com
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-11-13. Retrieved 2012-05-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Twin Ring Motegi - in Japanese
- Twin Ring Motegi - in English
- Map and circuit history at RacingCircuits.info
- Street View imagery in Google Maps
- Satellite picture by Google Maps