THE global economic crisis dealt a fresh blow to Formula One racing yesterday as Toyota pulled out of hosting the Japanese Grand Prix at its Fuji Speedway circuit from next year.
In 2007 the race track, in the foothills of Mount Fuji, hosted the Japanese Grand Prix for the first time in 30 years, and again last year. It was set to host the 2010 race as the 16th leg of the 18-race Formula One series.
But the economic downturn made it "extremely difficult" to continue to stage the event, said Hiroaki Kato, president of Toyota-owned Fuji International Speedway Co, which operates the circuit.
"I apologise deeply for being unable to live up to expectations. It is truly heartbreaking," he told reporters, bowing before the cameras at the company's headquarters in Tokyo.
From 2009, the Japanese Grand Prix had been due to alternate between Fuji Speedway and Honda's Suzuka Circuit, which staged the race for 20 years until 2006. Honda said it was undecided where next year's race would now be held.
Kato said the economic downturn was causing a dramatic fall in the number of people attending motorsport events as the world's second-largest economy struggles through its worst recession since World War II. - Sapa-AP