OCTOBER 30, 1995

Autopolis going to the wall

AUTOPOLIS - the company which sponsored Benetton a few years ago and which built a state of the art racing circuit in a remote part of Japan - is to be liquidated shortly and company president Tomonori Tsurumaki is in some difficulties with the Japanese authorities.

The track - which was intended to be the venue of the Pacific Grand Prix - is currently in the hands of the company which built it and is being offered for sale at 10% of the price it cost to build.

Tsurumaki's original plan had been to build a vast leisure facility in the forests of the Aso Kujiyu National Park, a relatively underdeveloped area of Kyushu - the most southerly of Japan's major islands. This was to include the circuit, three hotels, swimming pools and an artificial ski slope. Tsurumaki also planned a world class art gallery in the middle of the track and acquired famous works by such artists as Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Chagall, Renoir and Magritte. Those paintings are now sitting in bank vaults.

Rumors in Japan suggest that the only likely buyer of the circuit is the Toyota Motor Company which has a factory on Kyushu and might be convinced to buy Autopolis as a test track. The major problem of the facility, apart from its extreme remoteness is that it is plagued by mist.