Put Your Hands Together
for the Twelfth Team

By Roger Horton, England
Atlas F1 Senior Writer

The first thing that greets the nearly 600 employees of the Cologne-based Toyota Formula One team each day as they start up their computers, is a message on their screens counting down the days to the opening race of next season in Melbourne, where the cars that they have been nurturing for almost three years will at last take to the track in anger.

"When you have so many people, it's a way of getting your message across that we are in Melbourne next year, and that's the target," says Richard Cregan, who is general manager of the team's F1 operation, and the man responsible for assisting team boss Ove Andersson in the day-to-day running of the burgeoning new team.

Next year, Toyota take up their place at the top table of world motorsport when they become the twelfth team allowed to compete in the FIA-sanctioned Formula One World Championship, and so join a growing list of the world's major motor manufactures competing in Grand Prix racing. But not for Toyota the path trodden by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ford through Jaguar, Renault (this time around) and even their arch Japanese rivals Honda, who have all forged alliances with established F1 outfits as either engine suppliers or partners.

Toyota has chosen to throw out the book of established 'rules' and do it alone, building their own engine and chassis, something that has never been done successfully in this modern era of Formula One, Ferrari aside. "Toyota wanted to be in control of the concept of the car, which meant doing everything ourselves," says Cregan when questioned on the wisdom of this approach.

Toyota has also shunned all accepted wisdom and chose to base their operation in Cologne, Germany - many miles away from the established F1 triangle in the English midlands that currently (again Ferrari excluded) has played host to just about every Grand Prix winner of the last twenty years.

Already, before they have even started in a race, Toyota have ruffled a few feathers amongst the established teams as they gear up for their debut in some seven months' time. In early May, Andre de Cortanze, who was the original technical director for the new team, was let go, and Austrian Gustav Brunner was hired in controversial circumstances from perennial F1 strugglers Minardi to replace him.

Minardi team boss Paul Stoddart has always claimed that he had an iron-clad employment contract with Brunner that Toyota induced him to break, and he immediately threatened legal action. Brunner was lured, it is said, by a $12 million three-year deal, but Toyota are adamant that they hired Brunner in good faith, and at the time of the British GP Stoddart was backing away from his previous confrontational approach and was hopeful that the matter could be settled commercially. So although Toyota may not have actually behaved improperly, the David verses Goliath nature of the dispute didn't win Toyota many friends in the F1 paddock.

In recent weeks Toyota have again created some flak by suggesting that they may delay placing their entry for next year's Championship until the last possible moment, which would effectively allow them to test until the end of 2001. There is a testing ban from the last race of the year in Japan on October 14 to December 31, but only teams officially entered in the Championship (and therefore bound by the Concorde agreement) are subject to the ban.

McLaren team boss Ron Dennis gave a pretty typical reaction from the established team bosses when questioned on the subject on the eve of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. "They are entitled to do that, and to be honest if that's what they want to do, then fine. We don't think it's particularly supportive to what is, at the end of the day, a pretty club-orientated environment of Grand Prix racing. We try and help each other, but they are completely entitled to test longer, and if that is what they want to do, then fine." But being Dennis, he couldn't resist taking an additional swipe at the incoming team by adding with a smile: "We don't see them as any immediate threat."

Maybe not, but what is clear to all is that with Toyota's huge budget and resources being channelled into their F1 effort, the standard of competition on the grid is going to be raised another notch. That means bigger wage bills, even more spending on research and development, and more intensive testing regimes. All this at a time when the world economy is sliding close to a recession and car manufacturers' sales and profits are likely to come under increasing pressure. Little wonder, then, that the established teams have not exactly laid out a red carpet to welcome the Japanese giant into their little 'club'. Toyota's massive spending is going to hurt them and they know it.

All this aside, Toyota's entry to the pinnacle of motor racing is a joyous occasion - every sport needs new competitors, new blood, and Formula One has not seen a truly new name amongst its ranks for decades. So while the Japanese giant makes its preperation for the Grand Opening, Atlas F1 talks to the key players in the operation and looks at the marketing and technical aspects of this Great Adventure.

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Print Version

Volume 7, Issue 32
August 8th 2001

Toyota is Here - Special Project

Put Your Hands Together for the Twelfth Team
by Roger Horton

Allan McNish: Waiting for that Second Chance
by Roger Horton

Marketing: Toyota Bets on Speed
by Richard Bickers

Ove Andersson Wants Respect
by Alan Baldwin

Q&A with Richard Cregan
by Roger Horton

Q&A with Gustav Brunner


The Jean Alesi Trivia Quiz
by Marcel Borsboom

The F1 FAQ
by Marcel Schot

The Weekly Grapevine
by the F1 Rumors Team

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