Friday, April 29, 2011

Toyota Has No Plans to Return to Formula 1

A difficult economy forced Toyota to withdraw from Formula 1, but don't expect the automaker to return to the series should the automotive industry improve. Corporate officials -- even those once tied to the F1 program -- admit the racing series doesn't reach its customer base.

"There is a big gap between Formula 1 and Toyota's actual [owners]," said Tadashi Yamashina, Toyota's Senior Managing Director. "President [Akio] Toyoda's stance on motorsports is geared more to the customer."

Although Yamashima himself broke down in tears when Toyoda held a press conference last year to announce the F1 withdrawal, the executive seems to have adopted a new perspective on the race series. In an interview with Automotive News, Yamashima says F1 has grown far too "elitist" for Toyota's tastes.

"For the fortunate few who can afford to [stroll an F1 paddock,], it's fine. I think the best kind of races are those in which people can get in close to the race."

Although F1 isn't on the company's radar, Toyota will remain involved in other motorsports series, including those that do allow spectators to have greater access to drivers and cars alike. Expect Toyota-badged vehicles to remain a part of NASCAR and NHRA, but Toyoda -- a gentleman racer himself -- has pledged to increase the company's activity in grassroots motorsports.

Toyota first joined the F1 grid in 2002, but after seven years of activity, failed to garner a single victory. Along with BMW, the manufacturer was one of two auto companies to walk away from the F1 circus at the end of the 2009 season. Honda withdrew after a dismal 2008 campaign but laid the groundwork for the championship-winning Brawn GP team last year.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)