You Can Ride on a Live Racetrack in a Tour Bus with WEC’s Wild ‘Circuit Safari’ in Japan
Coming soon to the 6 Hours of Fuji: A really bad idea.
Generally, bad things happen when you put a big, lumbering vehicle on an active track filled with very fast race cars. But for a brief moment before the World Endurance Championship's upcoming 6 Hours of Fuji in Japan in October, the series' racers will find themselves dodging a group of five tour buses filled with fans during one of their practice sessions.
These so-called "Circuit Safaris" are apparently a bit of a thing at racetracks around Japan, where fans enter a lottery for the chance to buy a ticket and get closer to the action than they (or WEC's lawyers, probably) ever thought possible. A video from last year's edition at the 6 Hours of Fuji shows the buses slowing moving single file around the track as race cars from the various classes that compete in WEC events whiz by, with a single safety car protecting the back of the herd.
You'd think the buses would try to stay out of the way as much as possible, but the video also shows them taking the inside line on a few of Fuji Speedway's turns and forcing drivers to miss the apex. It's quite possible this is all part of the show; after all, the cars aren't moving anywhere near full speed. Then again, that measure carries its own risks when you're talking about machines that rely heavily on downforce for grip on a soaking wet track.
The video features a soothing, 80's-sounding piano soundtrack and makes the whole thing look like great fun for the people on board. We're not trying to rain on the parade, but the first thing this brought to mind was the tragic death of F1 driver Jules Bianchi after he struck a recovery tractor during an equally-wet Japanese Grand Prix in 2014. The second was Juan Pablo Montoya's infamous crash with a jet-dryer truck during the 2012 Daytona 500. Again, bad things usually happen when large, slow vehicles end up on a live track.
But the Circuit Safari appears to be the exception in the eyes of both the WEC and the FIA. The release announcing its return this year touts the inaugural run last year as a "resounding success," and we sincerely hope this year's is as well for the sake of everyone involved. Speaking of, here's the link to the ticket lottery if you'd like to climb aboard yourself on Saturday October 13.