The final race in Japan will not be on the famous egg-shaped oval. Instead, the series will compete on a 2.98 mile, 14 turn road course at the Twin Ring Motegi Motorsports facility.
The familiar oval track sustained damage during the earthquake that shook the area in March. The road course is actually being repaved this week, and the number of laps will be determined soon.
“In conjunction with Mobilityland, we have made the decision to move forward with our race in Motegi after closely monitoring the on-going situation in Japan for several months,” said Randy Bernard, CEO of IndyCar.
“After weighing a variety of options, we felt it was best to move the race to the road course. We understand that Japan is steadily moving forward with reconstruction and we look forward to entertaining our strong fan base at Motegi with our inaugural run on the road course.”
Twin Ring Motegi opened in 1997 and has hosted numerous open wheel races since 1998. Danica Patrick won her first and only race here in 2008. The road course is located just north of Tokyo.
The oval track and the road course circuit actually share the pit lane and front stretch. The cars will be running clockwise on the road course. The IndyCar race follows the race at Infineon Raceway in August, and the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix street race in early September.
For most IndyCar fans like myself, it was somewhat of a let down upon hearing the decision made today. On one hand it was great that they will be able to run one final race in Japan after the devastating earthquake rocked the area, but losing another oval to a road course is not what I wanted to see.
This year's schedule will now officially consist of 11 road/street courses, and just seven ovals. If they were unable to use the road course in Japan, the series would have likely found a replacement oval here in the states. While we were patiently waiting for this to happen, it just never materialized.
Fortunately we should be able to get our high-speed oval fixes here over the next few races. The Indy 500 was the first "oval" on the schedule this year, and next weekend's twin races at Texas should provide plenty of action. After that, we have the Milwaukee Mile and Iowa Speedway to look forward to.