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Team boss: Toyota nearly pulled out of F1
Toyota Motors' decision to stay involved in Formula One went right down to the wire, a Toyota executive told The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Tadashi Yamashina, chairman of the German-based Toyota Motor Sports Gmbh (TMG), said in a teleconference interview on Thursday that Toyota was on the brink of pulling out of F1 after Honda's decision on Dec. 5 to pull the plug on the money-consuming circuit.

Toyota executives deliberated right up until the Dec. 22 press conference--at which the company announced it would stay in the sport--before deciding the pledged support of main sponsor Panasonic gave it the necessary resources and money to stay in the sport.

The Toyota F1 team enters its eighth season with Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock in the driving seats at the Australian Grand Prix later this month in Melbourne.

With higher-than-ever expectations within the company and from its sponsors, Yamashina believes the team will win a grand prix race this season.

"We must win. I'm sure of our team's potential to win a GP title after watching the final test on Thursday. Our team is definitely better than that of last year, whose best performance was a runner-up finish [at Hungary Grand Prix]," he said.

"We have competed in the F1 circuit over the past seven years, which I believe has helped to invigorate our company and contributed to the sales of our products," Yamashina said from Cologne.

"I stressed again and again in the company's executive board meetings there was no way we should pull out, although we have to drastically cut our costs," he said.

"Obviously our negative business reports did cause some doubt."

"So I was extremely happy that Panasonic decided to renew its contract with us even though they also had some financial trouble. Their understanding of what we are doing allowed us to keep racing," Yamashina said.

"An association of F1 executives has been set up under the leadership of Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo, and all the teams have worked very hard to drastically cut their expenditure," he said.

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