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How Fukushima Earthquake Closes A Japanese Racing Track

An online writer who is also an avid geek to automotive, video games, and anime. Have a soft spot for racing games

Ebisu South Course, the Drift Stadium

Ebisu South Course, the Drift Stadium

The 2021 Fukushima earthquake is one of the worst events happened in Japan. The 7.3 earthquake not only caused death and injuries but also economic losses exceeding USD1,3 billion due to significant damages.

The devastating quake has left its impacts on individuals and businesses which still lasts up to this day. One of the businesses impacted by the earthquake is Ebisu Circuit, a racing complex located in Fukushima.

Famous Ebisu Minami Jump, courtesy of Japanese drifter Daigo Saito

Famous Ebisu Minami Jump, courtesy of Japanese drifter Daigo Saito

The South Course

A complex consisting of racing circuits, a spa, a ski resort, and a safari park, the name Ebisu is not foreign to the fans of Japanese auto racing and JDM aficionados. It has also made numerous appearances in automotive-related shows like Hot Version and Top Gear as well as video games like Need For Speed ProStreet.

The particular track, the Ebisu South Course (mostly referred as Ebisu Minami or simply Minami) is the most famous. Also known as Drift Stadium, the circuit has engraved its legendary status, hosting drifting events such as D1 Grand Prix since its inauguration and King of Asia. For drifters, it is a sacred site, and its legendary status can be equal to Monte Carlo for F1 fans.

Ebisu Minami is also known for one thing: the jump which starts right before the track’s first corner. The jump became famous after professional drifters such as Daigo Saito and Tetsuya Hibino did a “jump drift” before entering the first corner. Many of the drifters visiting the track try to “imitate” what both drivers have done.

Ebisu Circuit after the earthquake

Ebisu Circuit after the earthquake

Fukushima Earthquake And The End Of Drift Stadium

On February 13th 2021, a 7,1 magnitude earthquake struck off the eastern Japan regions. The earthquake, which occurred at 11:08 PM heavily damaged Ebisu. It wasn’t the first time as the racing complex was also devastated during a 9.0 earthquake happening 10 years ago.

Some of the racing circuits were damaged by the earthquake. Unfortunately, Minami was one of them.

The earthquake was hard enough to impact Ebisu financially, and the costs needed to repair the circuits don’t come cheap. This is worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic which has impacted the track operational aspects.

how-fukushima-earthquake-closes-a-japanese-racing-track

At that time, Ebisu has had financial difficulties due to the circuit still suffering from reduced attendance. While the rebuild of Minami had gone well, thanks to the donation opened by the management, the post-quake track maintaining costs is still massive.

Financial troubles worsened by consequences from the Fukushima earthquake forced Ebisu to close the Drift Stadium for good. Another reason behind the ‘closure’ was safety concern as the management don’t want drivers hurt while they’re trying the famous Minami jump.

The memories will still live on

The memories will still live on

The Future Of Ebisu

Starting from now, what the future holds for Ebisu? For information, Ebisu Minami is not completely closed. Instead, it is converted to a gravel/dirt-track course, which is less expensive to maintain and safer.

While in the subject of drifting, the role of Minami as the hosting track of professional drifting events was replaced by Ebisu West. The track has hosted D1 Grand Prix events in 2020 and has also hosted Japanese rounds of Formula Drift for years. Ebisu Circuit management is also considering the track to be heavily revised prior to the 2022 season of D1 Grand Prix.

So, what’s your opinion regarding Ebisu Minami closure? Hope I still can see some actions in Minami, although on a dirt surface.

© 2021 Muhammad Azka Prasetya

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