Soichiro Honda decided to develop a new permanent circuit in Mie prefecture in the late 1950s. Designed as a Honda test track in 1962 by Dutchman John “Hans” Hugenholtz, Suzuka is one of few circuits in the world to have a “figure eight” layout, with the 1.2 km back straight passing over the front section by means of an overpass.
The circuit has been modified four times:
In 1983 a chicane was put at the last curve to slow the cars into the pit straight and the Degner curve was made into two corners instead of one long curve; the circuit was also made considerably safer by adding more crash barriers, more run-off areas and removing straw bales leading into vegetation;
In 2002, the chicane was slightly modified, 130R (marked as 15 on the diagram) was also modified and some of the snake curves were made a bit straighter and faster;
In 2003, the chicane was made slightly faster and closer to the 130R.
Following the fatality at the 2003 MotoGP round, Suzuka reconfigured the motorcycle variant of what is now known as the Hitachi Automotive Systems Chicane before the final turn, and added a second chicane, between the hairpin and 200R.
The circuit can be used in five configurations; the car full circuit, the motorcycle full circuit, the “Suzuka east,” “Suzuka west car,” and “Suzuka west motorcycle” configurations. The “east” portion of the course consists of the pit straight to the first half of the Dunlop curve (turn seven), before leading back to the pit straight via a tight right-hander. The “west” course is made up of the other part of the full circuit, including the crossover bridge; the straight leading to the overpass is used for the start/finish line and the grid. The chicane between the hairpin and 200R separates the west and full course sections between cars and motorcycles.