KOLN, Germany, Monday, Dec. 17, 2001 - Toyota became the first Formula One team to launch its 2002 car as it unveiled the Panasonic Toyota TF102 on Dec. 17 at its racing headquarters in Koln, Germany. This marks Toyota's first foray into F1 competition.
"Today is a historic day for all of us," said Ove Andersson, president of Toyota Motorsport. "This is a product of over two years of hard work. A lot has happened since we launched our prototype car in Paul Ricard (France) last month."
While new to F1, Toyota is not new to motorsports, having competed in a variety of series since 1957, including World Rally, the Le Mans 24 Hours, IMSA and CART. Toyota also will supply engines to the Indy Racing League starting in 2003. Still, Toyota is taking a conservative approach to the 17-race 2002 F1 season that begins March 3 in Australia and includes the third annual SAP United States Grand Prix on Sept. 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"This is going to be a learning year for us," Andersson said. "We want to try and gain respect within the F1 paddock. We want to be the team that at the end of next year everybody will say, 'We think they did a reasonable job.'"
While acknowledging F1 is going to be a challenge, Tsutomu Tomita, chairman of Toyota Motorsport and managing director of the Toyota Motor Corporation, said F1 is where Toyota wants to be. "There is one thing we have recognized in the last three years," Tomita said, "and that is the popularity and high interest in F1 around the globe. At Toyota, we regard motorsport as the best stage on which we can show what wonderful things the automobile can present in its purest state."
Finland's Mika Salo and Scotland's Allan McNish, who worked as test drivers on Toyota's F1 prototype, are the team's nominated drivers for this season.
"We have a very experienced pair of drivers in Mika and Allan," Andersson said. "Our target for 2002 is to be realistic, qualify for every race, finish as many races as possible, learn about Formula One, and to become a team in the truest sense of the word 'team.'"
Salo has six years of F1 experience with teams such as Tyrrell, Arrows and Sauber. In 1999, substituting for the injured Michael Schumacher at Ferrari, Salo led the German Grand Prix before following team orders and moving over to allow teammate Eddie Irvine to win. After spending 2001 working as Toyota's test driver, Salo can't wait to go racing.
"I've seen with past teams how to do it and how not to do it," Salo said of running a competitive F1 team. "I've been impressed with everything at Toyota. I hope that it will just take us a couple of months to become competitive, but that is unrealistic."
While new to F1, McNish is a highly experienced racer having worked as a F1 test driver and showing his talent in prototype sports car racing where he won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1997 and the American Le Mans Series championship in 2000. McNish joined Toyota's sports car program in 1999 and its F1 development program in 2000.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for me," McNish said. "I put a lot of hard work into it, and I am pleased that it all paid off. The first test session and the first race of 2002 can't come quick enough. I don't feel any trepidation, only anticipation. The 'butterflies' will only hit me when we are trying to qualifying in Melbourne." Gustav Brunner was the chief designer of the TF102, which is a completely new car compared to the prototype used in testing.
"There is nothing left from the old car," Brunner said. "Everything thing is new. The old car was too heavy. With this car, we've decided to be conservative and conventional, as everything is new."
Brunner works alongside Dago Rohrer, the technical manager of the chassis department and Norbert Kreyer, who developed the Toyota V10 from scratch. Like Ferrari, Toyota builds the entire car, engine and gearbox under "one roof."
"There are only advantages to doing it that way," Andersson said. "We are all guilty if the car does not work - we have no excuses." As for what Toyota will achieve in its first F1 season, Andersson said it is a case of wait and see. "We are beginners," Andersson said. "We have to learn. Give us four or five races, and then you will all see where we are."
TOYOTA F1 BY THE NUMBERS
30,000 - Toyota's recently expanded F1 factory covers more than 30,000 meters (approximately 90,000 square feet). 20,967 - The number of kilometers (13,028 miles) the prototype F1 car covered between March and November 2001. 3,000 - Mika Salo and Allan McNish completed 3,000 testing laps in that same time period. 30 - The Panasonic Toyota F1 team is comprised of employees from 30 different countries and calls itself The United Nations of F1. 3 - The number of years ago that Toyota announced its intention to enter F1 and started its research-and-design program. 2 - The number of years since Toyota ended its Rally and Le Mans programs to concentrate on the F1 program. 1 - Toyota's president of motorsport said Toyota has one aim - to challenge for and to one day win the FIA Formula One Constructors and Drivers Championship.
to discuss this article