Eddie Irvine: Before graduating to Formula One in 1993, Eddie Irvine had a successful spell racing in Japanese F3000. During his three-years in the Far East he won a number of races and narrowly missed out on the championship in his final year....
Before graduating to Formula One in 1993, Eddie Irvine had a successful spell racing in Japanese F3000. During his three-years in the Far East he won a number of races and narrowly missed out on the championship in his final year. With two rounds of the series held at Suzuka, Eddie got to know the track well, and the unique figure of eight circuit soon became his favourite.
"Naturally, I am looking forward to the Japanese Grand Prix," said Irvine. "I think everyone knows it is my favourite event and that I consider Suzuka to be the most challenging track on the calendar. Suzuka is a special circuit for me. I have driven thousands of kilometres here in racing and testing and it was the scene of my Formula One debut. I have finished a Japanese Grand Prix in every point scoring position from sixth to second."
Last year Eddie went into the Japanese Grand Prix in contention for the world championship. This season things have been a lot tougher, but Eddie is still hoping to add to the three points he has already scored this year.
"Suzuka is a difficult track, not only to drive well, but also to set the car up for since you need a lot of traction to power out of the slow corners and plenty of power for the fast straight sections. There are some really challenging corners, especially the 130R, a left kink which needs all of your concentration if you are going to take it flat."
Like team-mate Eddie Irvine, Johnny Herbert also drove in Japanese F3000 and is another big fan of Suzuka. Johnny's best result in Japan came in the 1995, when he took third for Benetton in a wet/dry race. "Suzuka is definitely one of my favourite circuits," he said. "It's always been a great circuit and it is a big challenge.
"Suzuka is demanding for the driver, the car and the whole team, as set-up is very difficult there. There are a good variety of slow and high speed turns, the best being 130R, which is a real bravery test! There is certainly no time for a rest during a lap of Suzuka. I hope we are more competitive there than we were in Indianapolis as I have always gone well in Japan."
Last week the team tested at Silverstone, where it tried medium downforce set-ups in preparation for the race. Technical director Gary Anderson knows that the unusual layout of the Suzuka track means that the team will need to be on top of its game to achieve a good result. "Suzuka is a good circuit but the driver can really make a difference there. Hopefully we'll be able to stay focussed and get the best out of our package," he said.
"We're reasonable happy with what we achieved at Silverstone. The weather wasn't very good but we managed to do a lot of wet weather running which is useful in the run up to Japan. We concentrated mainly on running the Suzuka-spec tyres."