The General Manager
of the Otaru Grand Prix Osamu Kinoshita (L) and the Chairman
Yukihiro Arasawa meet the USA media in Australia
Although by no means a
certainty, the proposed Otaru (Japan) Grand Prix is methodically moving
closer and closer to becoming an official venue on the Champ Car World
Series calendar in 2007. On Sunday morning in Surfers Paradise, a
group of American journalists conducted an interview with the two top
Otaru Grand Prix officials - Osamu Kinoshita, the General Manager, and
his right-hand man Yukihiro Arasawa, Chairman.
Also on hand was a film crew
from Japan to film their entire visit. "We are here to see and
learn from the most successful street race in the world," said
After months of careful
evaluation, an official decision to host a Champ Car street race (rather
than another series) was made in July 2005 by Otaru officials.
There has never been a street race in Japan before, so everyone is being
very conservative in their planning.
Otaru itself is a city of
just 145,000 inhabitants, but nearby Sapporo, Japan is home to 2.5
million people, all within a 30-minute drive to Otaru. Recall that
Sapporo hosted the Winter Olympics years ago and is located on the north
island of Japan. The region gets heavy snowfall in the winter but
the other seasons are delightful.
Manager of the Otaru Grand Prix Osamu Kinoshita (C)
Since July there have been
visits by the Long Beach, California mayor, press conferences in Tokyo,
a 2nd visit by Kevin Kalkhoven, and Champ Car's track designer Martyn
Thake who has laid out two feasible proposals.
Otaru is a very popular
historic resort city. Much like Surfers Paradise, Otaru officials
hope that the race will put their city on the map and attract visitors
from around the world that will bring tourism dollars into the local
There is also a push by the
Prime Minister for regional revitalization so there is national
government support for this project knowing what a street race has done
for places like Long Beach, California. There is also support from
the Tourism Bureau who very much wants this race to happen.
The next key date is October
28th when the Grand Prix project team will meet with government
officials for a debrief on the Surfers Paradise event.
Arasawa said that "the race has an 80% chance of happening in the fall
of 2007. We hope to test 3 or 4 Japanese drivers (from Formula
Nippon and other places) in the off-season and the hope is to have at
least one Japanese driver race full-time in Champ Car in 2006 ahead of
the Japan race in 2007."
What's really needed is the
formation of a Team Japan that is modeled after Team Australia.
Race officials hope to draw from local companies for race
sponsorship; a beer company apparently has expressed interest. A
Honda or a Toyota involvement would just be icing on the cake.
The author can be contacted at
to discuss this article