Toyota has confirmed it will be the latest manufacturer to withdraw from Formula One. The automotive giant follows BMW and Honda out of the sport, and intends to “move forward in developing exciting production vehicles”, such as the Lexus LFA.
Toyota’s F1 program began in 2002 and while they secured 13 podium finishes and scored points in 87 races during that time, they failed to achieve the ultimate success of a Formula One race win. A cruel blow, no doubt, to the proud company.
Toyota Motor Corporation says they will do their best to secure the futures of their F1 employees, which they have rather quaintly referred to as a possible “inconvenience”. Quite!
This news may come as as a welcome relief to the remnants of the BMW Sauber team. As it stood there was no room on the grid for them in 2010. The former BMW backed team is hoping to continue as Sauber F1 and if they can secure a future they would be in pole position to fill the void left by Toyota.
Toyota’s full statement can be read after the jump.
UPDATE 5 November: The speech given by Akio Toyoda, President, Toyota Motor Corporation can be read below.
Toyota to Withdraw from F1
Tokyo, November 4, 2009 — TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION (TMC) announces it plans to withdraw from the FIA Formula One World Championship (F1) at the end of the 2009 season.
TMC, which had viewed its participation in F1 as contributing to the prosperity of automotive culture, remained dedicated to competing at the pinnacle of motor sports, even in the face of the abrupt economic changes that started last year. However, when considering TMC’s motor-sports activities next year and beyond from a comprehensive midterm viewpoint reflecting the current severe economic realities, TMC decided to withdraw from F1.
TMC leaves F1 having compiled 13 podium and 87 point finishes over eight challenging seasons since 2002 with Panasonic Toyota Racing, a full-constructor team. It views its time in F1—in which teams put forth their best efforts to fiercely compete at racing’s highest level—as an irreplaceable experience that provided an opportunity to develop both human resources and its R&D operations. TMC expresses its deepest appreciation to its F1 fans and others for their warm support.
TMC also wants to express its heartfelt gratitude to all Panasonic Toyota Racing drivers to date and to all Toyota Motorsport GmbH employees who have helped make the team’s achievements possible. TMC intends to do its best to find a solution for those parties who will be affected by any inconvenience this decision may cause.
Drawing on its experience in F1 and other motor sports, TMC intends to move forward in developing exciting production vehicles, such as the Lexus “LFA” supercar and compact rear-wheel-drive sports cars. In motor sports, it will not only race in various categories, but will also actively contribute to further development of motor sports by supporting grassroots races and planning events in which it is easy for people to participate.
Press Conference Address: November 4, 2009
Toyota’s Withdrawal from Formula One Competition
Toyota Motor Corporation
Thank you for taking the time to join us today for this press conference.
We have convened this conference to make an important announcement about Toyota’s participation in Formula One competition.
Toyota has engaged in F1 racing for eight seasons, starting in two thousand two. But we will conclude our participation in F1 competition with this season.
Our board of directors reached that decision after debating the issue thoroughly. I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to everyone who has supported our F1 program over the past eight years.
That includes the fans who cheered for our team, the companies that sponsored our racing program, the journalists who covered our activities, and the drivers and all the other team members, who shared the excitement of automobiles with people worldwide through F1 racing.
I attended the Japanese Grand Prix last month at the Suzuka Circuit. The passion of the fans was infectious. The team play displayed by our F1 team, Panasonic Toyota Racing, was incredibly impressive, and our driver’s performance was genuinely stunning.
When I think of the fans, emotions well up inside me. All I can hope is that people will understand that this painful decision was unavoidable in view of the present business environment and the medium- and long-range outlook. Our fans have been calling on us to really go at it next year. And I offer my sincere apologies that we will be unable to fulfil their expectations.
The Toyota F1 team has competed in one hundred forty F1 races over the past eight years. It has tackled each race with intensity and has honed its competitiveness continuously.
I salute the Toyota team for performing impressively in head-to-head competition with the greatest names in motor sports. And I thank the members of our team for sharing with us their passion and their vision.
I have been calling for product-focused management since I became president at Toyota this June. I have called for Toyota to concentrate on serving customers one at a time with flavorful vehicles that make them happy.
That priority mandates a fundamental shift in resource allocation. A sad result of that shift is that we have insufficient resources to maintain a viable commitment to F1 racing.
Economic and market conditions remain extremely trying. But adversity only heightens the importance of rethinking our proper legacy for the next generation.
A commitment to contributing to society through the manufacture of automobiles has steered all activity at Toyota since the company’s beginning. Today, we are undertaking several initiatives to promote the development of automotive culture on a new and higher plane.
Motor sports remain an important means of personalizing the automobile in the eyes of customers. Motor sports also remain an important means of cultivating human resources and our R&D operations.
We will rethink our motor-sports activities with an eye to maximizing those benefits while addressing economic realities. And we will take what we learn on the racetrack and put it to work in ever-better vehicles that are aimed at meeting the highest of expectations.