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November 5, 2009

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Home » Sports » Motor Racing

Toyota joins Japanese exodus from F1

TOYOTA has withdrawn from Formula One, leaving Japan without a team in motorsport's premier series.

Company president Akio Toyoda yesterday apologized for the team's failure to record a single race victory since joining F1 in 2002 despite an estimated annual budget of around US$300 million.

"It was a very difficult but unavoidable decision," Toyoda said in Tokyo yesterday. "Since last year as the economic climate worsened we have been struggling with the question of whether to continue in F1.

"We are pulling out of Formula One completely. I offer my deepest apologies to Toyota's many fans for not being able to achieve the results we had targeted."

Cologne-based Toyota's departure as a team and engine supplier deals another major blow to the sport after Japan's No. 2 carmaker Honda quit the series last December.

It leaves Japan without a team in F1 and continues the drain of Japanese companies from motorsport, which has seen Subaru and Suzuki withdraw from the world rallying championship. Bike maker Kawasaki also scrapped its MotoGP team in the grip of a severe market downturn.

Japanese tiremaker Bridgestone also announced on Monday it would not renew its supply contract with Formula One after the 2010 season.

In July, Toyota's Fuji International Speedway circuit surrendered hosting rights for the Japanese Grand Prix in 2010 and beyond to reduce costs amid the global economic crisis.

"Since becoming president in June I have attempted to concentrate on delivering Toyota's product to customers," said Toyoda. "We stressed our commitment to F1 last year but it was no longer viable to continue."

Toyota, whose team principal Tadashi Yamashina was in tears, compiled 13 podium and 87 points finishes over its eight seasons in Formula One.

Toyota's exit shifts the balance of power swinging back to privately-owned teams in F1.

While the manufacturers will still provide the backbone, there will be only three of them in 2010 - FIAT-owned Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault.

"Perhaps this is the end of a decade of manufacturer dominance in Formula One and what we will now see over the next decade is a sport that resembles much more closely the 1990s," Williams chief executive Adam Parr said.


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