Panasonic Toyota Racing is set to kick-start
2006 season preparations by testing the first phase of its 2006 race
car, the TF106, during a four-day session due to commence at the
Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona on Tuesday.
Confessions on a Design Floor
Renowned for its early car launches, Toyota
has raised the standards yet again by unleashing its 2006 race car
over three months before the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, which
is scheduled for 12 March. Technical Director Chassis Mike Gascoyne
believes such a head start could offer the Cologne-based team a
significant time advantage over its rivals ahead of the winter holiday
"We have been working on the TF106 since the
end of 2004," Gascoyne reveals, "and the introduction of this car at
such an early stage is a true testament to the work of the team and
shows that we are able to react and push forward at a rate that is
necessary to be at the forefront of Formula 1."
The TF106 marries a brand new rear end, designed to accommodate
Toyota's latest specification V8 engine, with a development of the
monocoque and front suspension of its pole-setting, podium-scoring
TF105B interim car that was brought in for the final two races of the
"The TF106 that will run in Barcelona marks the first stage of
development for this car with continuous improvements planned in the
run-up to the first race. We are adopting a similar schedule to last
season by testing the car early. This allows us to develop the
mechanical side of car thoroughly before we introduce a new aero
package in time for the first race. This strategy helped us to be
extremely competitive at the start 2005 and we are confident the same
will happen in 2006."
"The front end of the TF106 is an evolution of our TF105B that raced
in Japan and China, but the major design change for 2006 has been the
implementation of the V8 engine in line with the new technical
regulations, which has resulted in the redesign of the rear end,"
A Tale of Two Cylinders
Panasonic Toyota Racing experienced just one
engine retirement over 19 race weekends in 2005, an impressive
statistic given the increase to two-race reliability demands for last
season. Such an enviable record, coupled with the strong performance
of Toyota's V10 in its comparatively short F1 history, have provided
invaluable foundations for development of the V8 power unit according
to Technical Director Engine Luca Marmorini.
"With such strenuous reliability rules, we cannot afford to make jumps
in the dark," explains Marmorini. "We cannot compromise the
performance of the engine, so we have concentrated on reducing the
performance loss. We have a strong core team of engine engineers here
at Toyota, built up from six years of F1 engine development. This
impassioned teamwork is our advantage and our strongest asset."
Mike Gascoyne is quick to back up his engine counterpart: "Luca and
his team have done an exceptional job, which has had a positive
knock-on effect for the chassis department, a benefit enhanced by
being based at the same factory, under the same roof. Having a pair of
TF106s at our disposal for winter testing means that the development
of our mechanical package will be significantly advanced."
The new Toyota RVX-06 V8 engine was testbenched for the first time on
21 March 2005, one day after the team scored its debut podium finish
at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Since its first track run at the end of
July, the V8 has completed 291 laps over eight separate days, a
distance of 2,143km.
"A lot of teething problems have been solved through our ability to
get the V8 testing at an early stage," adds Marmorini. "We have
gathered a lot of data both on the track and in the factory. On 3
November we completed the required two race weekend mileage in the
dyno for the first time and that has permitted us to start our winter
testing program with a fully "raceable" RVX-06 unit. Now our job is to
redefine the limits of our engine and to push back the boundaries as
much as we can before the new season."
This week's four-day Barcelona test will
also mark Toyota's debut with Bridgestone tires following the recently
announced contract for the 2006 season.
Toyota Motorsport President John Howett
commented: "The Bridgestone agreement was only concluded recently and
it is important to get the partnership working as quickly as possible,
to build up a strong technical relationship and to develop the chassis
and the Potenza tires together in preparation for 2006. The fact that
we can test the new mechanical package and suspension together with V8
engine and Bridgestone rubber will surely give us a valuable head
start. It is too early to have any clear indication of our relative
competitiveness, but development of the TF106 will be relentless to
extract all the benefits of our continuous improvement maxim, to
always stay ahead of the game."
Toyota in More Ways
The TF106 is a natural evolution of its
predecessor and an embodiment of Kaizen (continuous improvement),
which forms an integral part of the global Toyota DNA.
"Over the years Toyota has developed its own
way of working," explains Toyota Motorsport Chairman Tsutomu Tomita.
"The so-called Toyota Way and the Toyota Production Systems (TPS)
manufacturing methodology act as the double helix of Toyota's
corporate DNA. It is this DNA that also runs through the veins of our
Formula 1 team in Cologne. Only through our unique approach can we be
optimistic of one day challenging for the world championship. We are
still at a very early stage of development with the TF106 but having
our new car ready with three full months before the first race of the
season in Bahrain, I hope we are demonstrating our will to succeed in
Don't Take My Berth Away
In the driving seat for this week's TF106 debut will be 2006 race
drivers Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli, who finished 6th and 7th
respectively in the drivers' championship in 2005 and helped Panasonic
Toyota Racing secure fourth in the constructors' championship. Joining
them will be Brazilian driver Ricardo Zonta, who has recently signed a
one-year contract extension to be the team's third and reserve driver
for 2006. Frenchman Olivier Panis will also continue in an important
test drive role in 2006, his fourth consecutive season as a Panasonic
Toyota Racing driver.
"I am very pleased to have signed again with Panasonic Toyota Racing
for the coming season," said Zonta. "We enjoyed such a successful year
in 2005 and I am sure this trend will continue. I feel part of the
family at Toyota and I would rather continue to offer them my services
as third driver than become race driver in another series which I may
not enjoy as much as Formula 1. I feel that I have contributed
significantly to Toyota's success and I look forward to extensive
testing of the TF106 to help propel us into the top flight of Formula
Panasonic Toyota Racing has three scheduled test sessions prior to the
traditional winter break. Following this week's four-day pounding of
the Barcelona circuit, the team moves further south to the Circuito de
Jerez from 7 December, where it will test for a total of eight days
and use its full complement of drivers.
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