How do you define a great race track? Is it a factor of the circuit’s design, an accumulation of testimonials from internationally famous drivers, or is it maybe something to do with the caliber of the races staged there? Or maybe all three?
The Monaco Grand Prix for example, is considered to be one of the world’s greatest motor racing events, and is an integral part of the Triple Crown of Motor Sport, but it is not ranked highly by professional racing drivers as their favorite or most rewarding tracks to drive. In fact, when you ask most racers, they will single out circuits like Spa Francorchamps, Suzuka, Silverstone and Laguna Seca as the tracks they enjoy the most.
In Japan, a challenging new race track is expected to vie with these legendary circuits as one to add to your bucket list. Cornes Motors Ltd., the country’s premier exotic automotive dealer, is currently building the ambitious Magarigawa complex, an extraordinary new race track one hour south of Tokyo that’s expected to open in late 2022. It’s a course that Cornes suggests will rival the best in the world for thrills and driver involvement. And after seeing the track layout and test driving it on a simulator for myself, I’d have to say that there might just be some substance in those lofty claims.
After all, the project brings together the very best in the business, from track designers, to luxury hotel chains to internationally acclaimed interior decorators to Le Mans winners. Penned by world-renowned F1 circuit designers Tilke Engineers and Architects—the guys who created bucket list-worthy tracks like Circuit of the Americas, Sochi Autodrom, Red Bull Ring and Yas Marina Circuit—the Magarigawa private circuit will be a 2.17-mile long technical course boasting 22 corners, including an 870 yard-long straightaway, several blind turns, an elevation change of some 87-yards and a specially designed air-conditioned member’s garage.
Obviously the track is not finished yet, but Cornes did allow me to try out their impressive new course on a driving simulator. As I pushed a Lamborghini Huracan to the max on the Magarigawa virtual simulator, it was obvious that Tilke’s team had created a world-class track that offers a 160-mph plus straightway which leads into a tricky hairpin requiring three quick directional changes in the space of 3 seconds. It also demands a good memory of the track layout, especially when you find yourself negotiating several tight, blind, uphill corners with negative camber where the only thing you can see is blue sky, trees and disappearing bitumen.
Situated in Minamiboso, Chiba prefecture just over one hour south of Tokyo at a location that lies within 90-minutes from both of Tokyo’s international airports, Haneda and Narita, Magarigawa will be cut out of a large swathe of heavily forested extreme mountainous terrain.
Making Magarigawa a totally unique race track and resort will be its collaboration with Kanaya Hotels, developer of some of Japan’s most exclusive resort hotels who specialize in luxury, ‘onsen’ hot springs and fine dining. Kanaya will run the luxury clubhouse as well as member lodges while internationally renowned interior designer Joyce Wang will cater to the clubhouse’s exclusive interior requirements.
To associate the facility with world-class motor racing, Magarigawa has retained the services of 1995 Le Mans winning Japanese driver Masanori Sekiya, who will look after member’s advanced driver education.
According to Cornes Motors, Magarigawa will not stage actual racing events and will be a private member’s club with membership hovering around the US$300,000 mark when it opens in 2022. Looking to attract 500 members over time, the complex has already welcomed over 100 enthusiasts from Japan, China and Hong Kong, and is looking to expand its membership to the U.S. and Europe in the near future.
Magarigawa certainly looks world-class at first glance, and with Tilke in charge of the track’s unique design, the facility should definitely make some waves in racing circles when it comes online in two years time. Obviously the ongoing Covid pandemic will affect travel to Japan for the foreseeable future, but if you have a spare $300 grand membership fee in your back pocket, and you like driving supercars at speed, taking hot spring baths and eating sushi and Kobe beef, then perhaps this one-of-a-kind facility is for you.