Autopolis (オートポリス, Ōtoporisu) is an international racing circuit located near Kamitsue village in Ōita Prefecture, Japan (30 km Northeast of Kumamoto).[1] Opened in 1990, it hosts a range of domestic and international motorsport events throughout the year. Although the track meets a high standard in terms of its facilities, it has never hosted a Formula One race. Due to the circuit ending up in financial difficulties, it has changed hands several times but still operates to this day.

Autopolis Circuit
The track's layout

Autopolis racing circuit.
LocationKamitsue village, in
Hita City, Ōita Prefecture, Japan
FIA Grade2
OwnerKawasaki Motors Corporation Japan
Construction cost¥47 billion
ArchitectYoshitoshi Sakurai
Major eventsSuper GT
Super Formula
D1 Grand Prix
MFJ Superbike
Super Taikyu
Full Circuit
Length4.673 km (2.904 mi)
Race lap record1:26.469, Naoki Yamamoto, Team Mugen, Dallara SF14, 2014
Main Circuit
Length3.022 km (1.877 mi)
Lakeside Circuit
Length1.761 km (1.094 mi)


The circuit, located within Aso Kujiyu National Park, was built at a cost of $500 million by the wealthy real-estate developer and investment banker Tomonori Tsurumaki who made headlines in 1989, when during a Paris auction, he successfully bid a Pablo Picasso painting Les Noces de Pierrette for $51.3 million from his Tokyo hotel room. Following his successful bid, he announced that his painting was to hang at the art gallery of the auto racing resort, under development at the time.[2]

The circuit was designed by Yoshitoshi Sakurai who was the project leader of the Honda F1 team during the 1960s.[3]

Tsurumaki ordered 30 Buick powered US built single seater race cars called "Sabre Cars" for a race to take place on his circuit's grand opening, on November 1990 consisting of a mixture of invited US CART drivers such as Stan Fox, Johnny Rutherford, Dick Simon, Gary and Tony Bettenhausen, against local Japanese drivers. After the grand opening, Tsurumaki planned on a series with the cars, known as Formula Crane 45. A few races were run in 1991, with only a handful of cars competing.

The only major international race held at Autopolis was the final race of the 1991 World Sportscar Championship season, the 1991 430km of Autopolis, which was won by Michael Schumacher and Karl Wendlinger in a Mercedes-Benz C291 fielded by Sauber.

Autopolis first hosted a Super GT race in 1999, the season-ending exhibition race, which was won by Tom Coronel and Hidetoshi Mitsusada in a Honda NSX-GT fielded by Nakajima Racing. After a three-year absence, the circuit has regularly been hosting races in the series since 2003, although with some exceptions. Autopolis first held a Super Formula race in 2006, and with some exceptions, the track has regularly been part of the series since then.

To promote the venue's intention to host a Formula One race, it sponsored the Benetton Formula One team in 1990 and 1991. The cars featured prominent Autopolis logos. Visitors to the WSC event criticized the track for being too remote to the hotels which required a several hours bus ride and felt that it was unsuitable for an F1 race. By then, hopes were fading, Tsurumaki turned up at the 1992 Portuguese Grand Prix. Whilst staying in Estoril, $250,000 of cash and jewels was stolen from his hotel room.

Tsurumaki also invested in race horse A.P. Indy[4][5] and paintings of renowned painters such as Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Chagall, Renoir and Magritte before his company, Nippon Tri-Trust collapsed, leading to his bankruptcy in 1993.[6] The circuit plus the paintings and contents ended up in the hands of Hazama who was responsible for the construction of the race track.[7] Ultimately, the track's event slot for 1993 was given to Donington Park, and TI Circuit Aida would host a second Japanese race in Formula One calendar in 1994, but suffered from the same location-related criticism and was removed at the end of the following season.[8]

By 1995, the company offered the site for sale at 10% of its build cost which consisted of three hotels, swimming pools and an artificial ski slope. The paintings by then remained in a bank vault waiting to be sold.[9]

Autopolis was purchased by Kawasaki in 2005.[10]

The circuit currently holds events for the Super GT as well as D1 Grand Prix, Super Formula, MFJ Superbike and Super Taikyu.

In March 2019, the circuit was added to the video game Gran Turismo Sport through a game update.[11] It has also been featured in Need for Speed: ProStreet, Need for Speed: Shift and Shift 2: Unleashed.

The circuitEdit

The circuit is located in an upland area of the island which means the air is thin with low atmospheric pressure, similar to Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City. It has an elevation change of over 50 metres (160 ft) with the first section generally downhill and the latter part of the course runs uphill.[1] The start/finish straight is located at an altitude of 820 metres (2,690 ft).[12]



  1. ^ a b 15 Oct 2010 - 17 Oct 2010 Autopolis International Circuit, Japan - Archived May 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Japanese Developer Buys Picasso at Record Price - New York Times
  3. ^ F1 News - > GP Encyclopedia > Circuits > Nippon Autopolis
  4. ^ SPORTS PEOPLE: HORSE RACING; Sold! For $2.9 Million - New York Times
  5. ^ National Museum of Racing - Hall of Fame Archived September 26, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Yakuza: Japan's Criminal Underworld By David E. Kaplan, Alec Dubro
  7. ^ The Art of a Failed Economy |
  8. ^ Cooper, Adam (April 17, 2020). "Why Japan's second F1 race didn't take off". Retrieved October 28, 2020.
  9. ^ F1 News - Autopolis going to the wall
  10. ^ Kawasaki Takes Over Autopolis Racing Course - News Releases KHI Archived January 2, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Gran Turismo Sport 1.34 Update Now Available: Five New Cars, Autopolis Circuit and More". GTPlanet. 2019-03-05. Retrieved 2019-09-08.
  12. ^ Google Earth

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 33°2′13″N 130°58′22.9″E / 33.03694°N 130.973028°E / 33.03694; 130.973028