Former Suzuka Eight Hour race winner and ex-BSB racer Atsushi Watanabe is training for a new career – as a racer in Auto Race, Japan’s municipally-managed, gambling-led, speedway-style racing.
According to his former Relentless by TAS Suzuki team boss Philip Neill, Watanabe is undergoing a seven-month training programme, during which time he has little contact with the outside world!
Auto Race bikes have 600cc Suzuki-made AR600 ‘SEAR’ twin-cylinder engines with two-speed gearboxes, no rear suspension and no brakes.
Racing takes place at six different circuits in Japan - all 500m ashpalt banked ovals.
Bikes reach 90mph on the straights, 60mph in the corners and the races feature eight riders in six-lap races in a knock-out tournament format.
With gambling predominant, riders have to remain in dormitories during each meeting – which can last up to five days - to prevent race fixing.