The Final Indycar Race At Motegi: The “Closing” Of Japan
In 1852 American Commodore famously “Opened” Japan to the outside world. In 2011, Indycar will finally have the pleasure of “Closing” Japan and leaving after over a decade of boredom. Indycar at Motegi. It’s been a long and unhappy partnership. The track has never produced great racing and the fact that it’s televised late at night/early in the morning (midnight-2AM) does not endear it to fans. The good news is this is the end. Next year Indycar won’t go back. While rumors of a race in China continue to fly, I would hope that Indycar fans and the series itself takes a minute to reflect the lessons from Motegi. The TV ratings are bad. Most fans won’t watch a race at 2AM. A race in Japan takes weeks out of the schedule where Indycar falls completely off the radar as all of it’s stars are out in another country. It causes a 3-4 week gap in the season. 2am out of continent racing is a complete buzz kill. Thank god it’s over. It’s time to celebrate the “Closing of Japan”. In the (paraphrased and slightly changed) words of US General Douglas McArthur, “WE SHALL NOT RETURN!” I hope that’s extended to, China, and the rest of Asia and the Pacific.
Indycar should not be in Motegi this year. That’s not due to safety concerns. From all reports Motegi is safe enough. The problem is the track that Indycar agreed to run, the Motegi oval, is out of commission. That should have given Indycar an out clause in the contract. From what I’ve heard Texas and Fontana were both interested in running a “replacement” race. A race at an oval in America where passing would have been possible was passed over for an extra Motorcycle track!?!?!?!?!?!? Only in Indycar. 7 ovals and 10 road/street courses is Champcar. Plain and simple. It’s not about lack of support for Japan but I contend running a race at Motegi by Indycar doesn’t do a whole lot for Japan. I seriously doubt it has the economic impact that say, MotoGP has. I mean, they got our Women’s World Cup! Surely they can give us an Indycar race back! I’ve fought that debate once already and I can’t say I’ve changed my opinions at all.
Motegi has hosted CART and IRL. It’s been the “Honda Home Race” and is a track that is owned by them. Motegi’s only real claim to fame is that Danica won here lone Indycar race here. It was a big moment in Indycar and I was one of the 5 people watching live. Looking back it’s sad to see Indycar’s only known star win her only race in Japan, when no one was watching. A missed opportunity to say the least. The potential of having the title decided when no ones around is also terrible. That’s the thing about international races. Even if they’re in our timezone, most of the media doesn’t go there. So it’s pretty much a dead zone. To potentially have the Indycar title decided there is insane. Imagine IF an American or a driver who had a lot of media attention was in contention for the title and won it at Motegi? No one would know it had happened!
But thankfully it’s over! No more Motegi. And I’ve heard no rumors about a race at Fuji or Suzuka either! It’s a VICTORY for American Open Wheel. It’s not all good news for Indycar however as China still exists. Who can really say that they’re excited about that? No one will watch. Run it before Indy and it dampens momentum into the Month of May. Run it in the summer and it wastes the precious summer stretch of Indycar. Run it in the fall and kill momentum into the season finale. So let’s just not run it at all!!!! Surely the lessons from Motegi show that races at 2am are not the way to go.
But that’s for the future. Right now it’s time to celebrate! While we should and could have gotten away from Motegi faster, the fact we’re getting away at all is an all too rare positive sign for Indycar. I’m not against all racing at Motegi. The MotoGP should stay. And it’s not like the area around Motegi is unsafe. Am I being selfish? Yes. But, Indycar’s done a lot of charity work for Japan and that’s a great thing. I personally liked the idea of running a race in America (where people might actually see it) and doing some charity stuff during that race. That would be a way to really show/do support for Japan. What we’re doing instead? Adding another motorcycle course to a series already full of them? Continuing the slide to Champcar? Running the 3rd to last race when no one’s going to watch it? Sounds like your typical Indy Failure League idea to me. Thankfully we’re “Closing” Japan and most likely won’t be back. On a side note, for a much more positive/supportive view of Motegi, look to Eric Hall (our F1 writer and host of his own Indycar blog, AnotherIndycarBlog). Eric’s reaction to the announcement of Japan was 180 degree’s different than mine. So if this was too negative, go there and you’ll feel better.
Posted on September 15, 2011, in Indycar and tagged Champcarification, Closing of Japan, Commodore Perry, Douglas McArthur, Hope, Hope for the Future, Indy Failure League, Indycar 2012 Schedule, Randy Bernard, Twin Ring Motegi. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.