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Toyota stays put but cuts budget

TOYOTA came close to following Honda out of Formula One after its Japanese rival pulled out of the glamor sport to cut costs in December, Toyota team principal Tadashi Yamashina said yesterday.

"Our Formula One budget was cut again and again from its original figure," Yamashina said. "It was cut again after Honda's announcement it was leaving F1 and within a month the figure was reduced again after Toyota's end of yearly earnings target was revised.

"I'm not able to put a figure on how much the Formula One budget was slashed by but in all my time at Toyota I have never seen cuts like it."

Toyota has yet to win a race after seven years in Formula One and spent an estimated US$300 million on the Cologne-based team in 2008, a figure only exceeded by Honda.

Toyota finished fifth overall last year but returned to the podium for the first time since April 2006 with German Timo Glock second in Hungary and Italian Jarno Trulli third in Germany.

"Winning and results are important," Yamashina said. "There are other factors too. It's a business and unless we make the team viable, next year we may have to cut costs further."

With the world's biggest carmaker set to suffer its first ever operating annual loss due to the slump in global car sales, its continued presence in Formula has come under scrutiny. Honda, Japan's second largest carmaker, blamed the worldwide economic downturn for its Formula One exit.

Toyota's decision not to follow suit was believed to have been a very close one, a renewed sponsorship deal with Japanese electronics company Panasonic providing a timely boost.

"It has been very difficult," said Yamashina. "Laying off people and cutting costs is part of business. As a business you have to do what you can to survive. No matter how much we have to reduce the budget by or how far we have to down-size the team, that is what business people have to think about."

Dozens of employees have lost or will lose their jobs under Toyota's restructuring.

"We're cutting down on tests and we will keeping spending under tight control," said Yamashina. "Having said that results are important.There's little point doing it if we are crawling home in 17th or 18th place in every race."


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