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Tsukuba Circuit - Track Review

Location Shimotsuma, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan (35 miles from Tokyo)

Feb 22, 2011

Track Configuration 2.045 km (1.271 miles) and 14 turns
Facilities 32 pit boxes, control tower, 8,500-spectator capacity (3,000 in the grandstands, 5,000 on lawn seats and 500 standing over the pits), Drivers Saloon restaurant, oval motorcycle track, Tsukuba 1000 short course, gymkhana track
Elevation Change 5.30 meters (17.4 feet)
Longest Straight 437 meters (0.272 mile)

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Now 40 years old, Tsukuba Circuit may not offer the luxurious amenities or grand scale found at Japan's Formula 1 tracks - Fuji Speedway and Suzuka Circuit - but that hasn't prevented this less extravagant facility from becoming one of the most important and popular tracks in Japan. That's because this 2.045km, 14-turn circuit, located just 35 miles from downtown Tokyo, has emerged as the definitive time attack circuit in the country (if not the world), while also being extremely popular for club level racing and lapping days.

Part of Tsukuba's appeal is the variety of corner shapes and speeds it offers, making it a thorough test of both car and driver. It's also one of the most recognizable circuits in the world, having been heavily featured in video games like Gran Turismo and on TV shows like "Best Motoring." In fact, Tsukuba has been so influential as a test facility that Honda built a near identical version in the United States at its Transportation Research Center in Ohio. Do a quick Google search for "Tsukuba Circuit" and you'll find Autoblog.com's story about the U.S. version along with a Google Earth image of it.

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For us, a big part of Tsukuba's appeal is that it's a track that's well suited to thrashing on just about any car - stock or modified, normally aspirated or boosted, shod with street tires or racing slicks. It's also well suited to novice drivers because the speeds reached are fairly modest compared to the big F1 circuits, and yet to drive a car at the absolute limit around Tsubuka requires tremendous skill and experience. The track design may look simple, but there's a lot of subtlety to it that keeps drivers coming back in search of quicker lap times. From a tuning standpoint, Tsukuba presents such a unique challenge that many top Japanese tuners have developed "Tsukuba Special" vehicles that have been very carefully dialed in for this circuit. The Japanese tuning focus on Tsukuba no doubt stems from the highly publicized time attack events that are hosted annually by Rev Speed and Option magazines. Anything under 1 minute is considered seriously quick, with HKS continuing to occupy the top spot in the Super Lap record books thanks to Nob Taniguchi's 53.589-second lap in the famed Mitsubishi EVO CT230R (in 2007). Japan's top tuners continue to go after this record, with the Cyber Evo having run a 54.9 in 2009 and the all-carbon fiber Revolution FD RX-7 posting a 53.6 during practice at the '10 Rev Speed Super Lap Battle event (we'll save the official results from this event for a later issue).

If you ever find yourself in Japan on the second weekend of December, be sure to make your way to Tsukuba to check out the Super Lap action. You won't be disappointed!

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