The Fuji Motorsports Museum, which showcases the history of racing, recently opened to the public at Fuji Speedway.
After seeing pictures of this place online, I couldn’t resist stopping by on my recent visit to Japan, and boy is my inner racing fan a treat.
Located inside the Fuji Speedway Hotel, passing through the museum’s entrance, one of Japan’s most famous racing cars, the Toyota 7 Turbo, is greeted hanging on one side. The Toyota 7 project was jointly developed by Toyota and Yamaha in the mid-1960s for use in the Japanese Grand Prix and the Can-Am series.
By 1970, the Toyota 7 project in its final form was an 800 horsepower wheel on steroids with a body that looked Flintstones-esque compared to today’s prototypes. Powerful though that might be, the car proved too dangerous due to its raw aerodynamics, eventually killing two test drivers and Toyota briefly denying the accident. Talk about a striking entrance.
A curated selection of landmarks in motorsport history is on display on the museum’s first floor, taking you from pre-war racing history to modern motorsport every step of the way.
Sitting in a row of pre-war racing cars is a 1911 Stutz Bearcat.Cars are designed, built and tested although In the inaugural Indy 500, it finished 11th out of 40 races. The car then went on to win 25 of the 30 races it entered in 1912, a rate that has been matched by only a handful of cars since.
Parked around the corner is a Honda RA272, the first Japanese F1 car to take the checkered flag. The RA272’s 1.5-litre V12 engine revved to 13,000 rpm during Japan’s first win at the Mexican Grand Prix in 1965, paving the way for Honda’s early involvement in F1 until the automaker took a break to focus on road cars in 1968.
Fun fact: Honda’s Type Rs have always had Champion White as a nod to the Honda RA272.
The first floor ends with a display of the 1969 Japanese Grand Prix. During the heyday of Japanese motorsports, the Japanese Grand Prix series ran from 1963 to 1969, and modified Can-Am and Group 7 cars dominated the stage. By the end of the series, the car had over 600 horsepower and a criminally light body. These were some of the most powerful and fastest racing cars in the world at the time.
Nissan came out on top, winning the Japanese Grand Prix in 1966, 1968 and 1969 with their R380, R381 and R382 respectively. Toyota and their Toyota 7 project locked up the title, culminating in the monster Toyota 7 Turbo that debuted in 1970. Nissan is also preparing the newly developed twin-turbo R383, claiming around 900 horsepower in the 600kg shell.
However, those aforementioned tragedies led to Toyota’s exit, and as Nissan shifted its corporate focus to safety and clean emissions, the R383 never had a chance to match the Toyota 7 Turbo, marking the end of a chapter in Japanese sports car racing.
As soon as the elevator doors to the second floor open, you’ll see a Porsche 904 GTS competing with the Targa Florio. The car sits low, is small, and takes up almost no floor space!
This floor houses many famous race cars from multiple disciplines – NASCAR, WRC, IMSA, Le Mans and many more. Casual nerds can immerse themselves, with each car’s story written on a plaque in front of it.
Seeing this Pennzoil R33 GT500 brought back some early PlayStation memories. That’s where many of us outside of Japan first got our hands on the JGTC and Super GT and some of the most impressive race cars ever built. The bright yellow livery is as eye-catching as it was on the CRT TV screens I grew up on, and it was awesome to see one of my hero cars in real life.
However, speaking of heroes…
At the end of the second floor, behind a black film that looks like a loading screen, parked are two very special cars, both to me and to Japan: a Mazda 787B and a Toyota GT-One.
I’m not going to lie, knowing that these two cars – especially the 787B – were on display at the museum was a major draw for me.I’ve heard and read a lot about Japanese sports cars and two of the greatest achievements in automobiles are right in front of me, one is a Le Mans winner and the other is almost – Toyota only repeated the feat in 2018 with the TS050.
This is my bucket list material. When the 787B won Le Mans in ’91, the screaming 4-rotor R26B launched the rotary engine onto the global stage and is without a doubt a major contributor to today’s rotary mania. At least it does for me; it’s a big reason I drive a spinner.
Although a replica (the No. 55 car that actually won the race is in the Mazda Museum in Hiroshima), it and the Toyota GT-One are the centerpiece of the Fuji Motorsports Museum, two of the greatest race cars in Japanese history.
The great thing about the Fuji Motorsports Museum is that it takes you through time and space, showing the history of various motorsports, not limited to a single manufacturer. You’ll rarely see a Mazda 787B and a Stutz Bearcat in the same building.
The museum celebrates racing and the pioneering feats of engineering that go with it. If you’re a racing fan, I highly recommend a visit. Of course I don’t regret it!
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