The Dawn of Motor Sports
"I want to have a venue for motor racing. Automobiles cannot be improved if they are not put through their paces on the racing circuit."
This prescient statement by company founder and president Soichiro Honda, made around the end of 1959 during a meeting to propose the construction of a welfare facility for the Suzuka Factory, led to the birth of Japan's first full-scale road racing circuit.
In those days, the Asama Volcano Race was still held in the Asama Heights area. However, the course on which the race took place had been constructed as a test course for motorcycle manufacturers who did not have their own proving grounds. In fact, the purpose of the course's construction was to enable these manufacturers to "fulfill their responsibilities in the sale of quality products." But since the automobile manufacturers had not agreed to the construction of a fully paved course, as was originally planned, it was not possible to secure funding sufficient for the purchase of paving. As a result, car races had to be held on a dirt course.
However, as better motorcycles were developed with speed and performance exceeding the levels for which the course was originally intended, safety became a major concern for competitors and spectators alike. Ultimately, the Asama Volcano Race was discontinued following the 1959 event. On the other hand, motorcycling was steadily becoming more popular with urban thrill seekers, who took to the streets in a quest for excitement. These rowdy riders led to the emergence of so-called "Kaminari Zoku (groups of thunderous riders)," which soon became a social problem. The industry feared the trend could damage the motorcycles image as a safe and pleasurable means of transportation.
Soichiro Honda had a basic philosophy: Unlike dry goods dealers and furniture builders, motorcycle manufacturers are entrusted with an irreplaceable commodity called human life. Being true to this ideal, the company had worked hard to fortify its conviction that it was a hallowed obligation as a motorcycle manufacturer to build a race course with which they could develop the types of high speed machines demanded by increasingly speed-conscious consumers that were safer and more predictable. Honda had successfully completed its debut in the Tourist Trophy (TT) Race on the Isle of Man in 1959, and was badly in need of a venue for high-speed running tests to develop production models.