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Friday, October 23, 1998 Published at 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK

A drive with Damon

Hill negotiates one of Suzuka's famous long left-handers

Former world champion Damon Hill took the BBC's Formula One correspondent Jonathan Legard on a lap of Suzuka, the venue for this season's title decider. Here are his comments.

Suzuka is a stunning track. In fact it's unique because of its Scalextrix-style switchback where you double back on yourself.

You spend one half of the lap going clockwise and the other going anti-clockwise.

It's also notable for being set in an amusement park with a huge big wheel.

It's a circuit where you can feel well pleased with yourself if you do a lap and qualify well. I tend to approach the weekend with the objective of getting a really good lap because it's on such a challenging, difficult track that if you can pull it off, you get a real sense of satisfaction.

Suzuka is like Spa in that respect - it's tricky with long lap times and lots of corners.

It's also very narrow, so it's difficult to overtake. Probably the best place is into the final corner at the tight chicane where Alain Prost tried to stop Ayrton Senna overtaking and they promptly parked up and argued about it later!

The start

If you see it on television, you can't appreciate that the start-finish line is on a down slope and that presents a few difficulties.

It makes it easy to roll forward and get a jump start penalty - but obviously it also means the car can accelerate easily.

Turns one and two

The first part of the corner is a kink. You mustn't brake before it. Leave it until you're into it.

But you've got to hold the car to the right of the track when all it wants to do is go left!

[ image: Hill clinches the F1 title beneath the ferris wheel]
Hill clinches the F1 title beneath the ferris wheel
The S curves

These are an uphill series of fast third and fourth gear corners - right, left, right, left until you hit the blind brow of the hill which is much slower and where the road just drops away.

It's where Eddie Irvine went round the two McLarens last year quite specatacularly. Normally you can only hope to get by at the start.

Turn four

Dunlop corner is a long left-hander. Here your neck gets loads of punishment because it's not accustomed to taking the strain on long left-handers.

Turn five

This is almost a two-part corner - a fast flick through, but very difficult to predict because you can't see the apex.


After going under the bridge, you're into the hairpin which is complicated because there's a kink just before entry so you can find yourself braking and cornering at the same time.

It makes it very difficult to straighten the car out.

The sweeping left-hander that follows is really just a long curve.

Spoon curve

Great name, difficult corner, with a fast, blind entry.

One apex follows another and you're coming into it from below. Not easy!

It's crucial though, because you need a fast exit to get launched for the long straight.

[ image: Hill celebrates winning both the Japanese GP and the 1996 F1 crown]
Hill celebrates winning both the Japanese GP and the 1996 F1 crown

Fast, nearly flat-out, about 180-190mph.

This is the biggest challenge of the lot because as you're going across the bridge you know you've a tricky, almost stupidly slow chicane.


The only interesting part of this corner is the braking area.

It's curved and blind which means you can't see the entry into it - approaching at about 170mph!

Jordan's chances for the race

Everyone in the Jordan team and at Mugen Honda have been working flat out to produce as much as they possibly can for this car to deliver in Suzuka.

We'll have a better engine for qualifying and for the race, which will really help us get some more points for Eddie to move him further up the Constructors' Championship, which would be great.

We'll be trying everything we can to make it happen.

Goodyear have come up with a new tyre which will help us.

One other thing to keep an eye on - if my team-mate Ralf Schumacher wins, he'll keep his car because it's his final race for Jordan before leaving for Williams.

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