ASLMS interview of the week with Kazuhiri Tsuge

Senior Managing Director of the Fuji International Speedway Kazuhiri Tsuge gives interview to Asian Le Mans Series

Welcome to Fuji Speedway
Welcome to Fuji Speedway

Photo by: James M. Holland

Born in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan, Kazuhiri Tsuge joined Toyota Motor Corporation (Technical Department) when he was twenty. He then moved to Toyota’s Motorsports Division to take charge of WRC and Japanese motorsports in September 1992. After sixteen years with Toyota he moved to Fuji International Speedway in 2008 and is now the Senior Managing Director of the circuit, as well as the Director of GTA and JRP.

Question: Please introduce your circuit

Answer: Fuji International Speedway is a FIA Grade 1 circuit with half a century of history behind it. A lap of our course is 4,563 meters, with a combination of high-speed corners and technical sections, and boasts the longest straight in the world for a permanent racing circuit at approximately 1.5 km. For the drivers the most challenging sections are the two high-speed corners, the 100R and the 300R. Also, a high level of vehicle setting is required for a racing car to adapt with the compounding speeding sections and the winding technical sections. For our visitors, watching world class racing in the green foothills of the iconic Mount Fuji, a symbol of Japan, is an awesome and unique experience.

Q: How did you first hear out about Asian Le Mans Series?

A: We have been in talks with Mr. Yojiro Terada (ACO-Japan) about holding the race for a few years now. With Europe and the U.S. holding their own Le Mans Series in their regions, we affirmed that a Le Mans Series dedicated to Asia would be essential for the cultivation of motorsport culture here in the area. With the successful holding of the inaugural FIA World Endurance Championship Round 7 here at Fuji last autumn, we have seen a sharp increase in interest in WEC from the Japanese fans, not to mention the fact that with a past of numerous Japanese car-manufactures and teams entering the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the name “Le Mans” is widely recognized. With that in light, for the many teams in Japan and other Asian nations wanting to challenge themselves for a shot at Le Mans, the first and foremost step, we think, should be to enter the Asian Le Mans Series.

Q: What is the status of motorsports in Japan at the moment?

A: Japan has half a century of motorsports history. The country has seven circuits certified as FIA Grade 2 or above. In recent years we have seen many fans enjoying such races as “SUPER GT” with its Grand Touring cars and “SUPER FORMULA” with its cars only surpassed by Formula 1. Also, every weekend there are amateur racing events for touring cars, junior formulas and racing karts held regularly at circuits across the nation, nurturing a long tradition of amateur racing drivers having fun on the track.

Q: Most of Asia is still in its infancy in terms of the development of a strong motorsports culture. How do you think the 2013 Asian LMS can help Japanese motorsports, and Asian motorsports as a whole, with developing the culture of the sport in the region?

A: Though Japan has half a century of racing history, as mentioned before, there is still a long way to go to catch-up with the motorsport culture of Europe and the Americas. Holding this race here in Japan, one of the leading automotive manufacturing nations in the world, shows the world that the racing will be of a very high standard, and the series will bring together different Asian countries under a single banner. In short, we look forward to holding the race and making our contribution to this fantastic cultural exchange through motorsports here in Asia.

Q: What are Fuji Speedway’s objectives for the series and the rest of 2013?

A: With this year being the first for us to hold the race, we would like for the maximum possible number of Asian and Japanese teams to enter. We also anticipate an exciting competition thanks to the collaboration with GTA, the promoter of the SUPER GT series, allowing the SUPER GT GT300 class cars to enter as well. It is also our objective to continue holding the race after 2013, and we welcome many Asian teams to also enter the WEC Japan Round, making our racetrack a part of a path that leads to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Q. Which cars are you most looking forward to seeing?

A: First of all, I am really looking forward to seeing the LMP2 cars that are only here in Japan for this race and WEC. Other than that, it will be great to see the European and U.S. super cars that are not entered in the SUPER GT Series.

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About this article
Series Asian Le Mans
Drivers Yojiro Terada
Article type Interview
Tags aslms, fuji international speedway, interview, kazuhiri tsuge