Toyota backs out of hosting 2010 Japan GP

TOKYO: Toyota-owned Fuji International Speedway said Tuesday it will pull out of hosting the 2010 Japanese Formula One Grand Prix and beyond due to a prolonged economic slump.

"It has become extremely difficult for us to host the F1 Grand Prix as we face the deteriorating economic environment and see few signs showing a swift economic recovery," Fuji Speedway said in a statement.

Fuji Speedway, which is 93.4 percent owned by Toyota Motor Corp., hosted the Japanese Grand Prix in 2007 and 2008 for the first time in 30 years, replacing the Honda-owned Suzuka circuit, which is hosting the race this year.

However, it has not been decided whether the race would be held at another venue in Japan next year, said Fuji Speedway spokesman Keiichi Sato.

"It is not clear at this moment whether the 2010 F1 will be hosted in Japan by others or be held in another country," Sato said.

The Fuji International circuit had been scheduled to alternate the race each year with the Suzuka circuit.

"It was a heart-wrenching decision to give up on hosting the F1 Japan Grand Prix just three years after we announced our hosting in 2006," Fuji Speedway president Hiroaki Kato said in a statement.

Toyota declined to comment on Fuji Speedway's withdrawal. But the world's biggest automaker said it would not quit Formula One racing.

Toyota's rival, Honda Motor Co., said in December 2008 that it had pulled out of F1 racing to cut costs amid a downturn in the global economy.

Fuji Speedway's exit came as Toyota hoped to revive itself under the leadership of its new president, Akio Toyoda, who is the grandson of founder Kiichiro Toyoda. The 53-year-old Toyoda took helm at the Japanese auto giant in June following approval at a shareholders' meeting.

Toyoda has a daunting task to lead the battered automaker, which lost a staggering 436.94 billion yen ($4.6 billion) in the fiscal year ended March, its worst loss ever. The company is expecting more red ink this fiscal year.