Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Toyota Withdraws From Formula 1 Racing

With the 2009 Formula 1 season ending just 3 days ago, the 2010 Grand Prix grid is already been dramatically reshaped. Competing in F1 since the 2002 season, Toyota Motor Company is pulling out of the world's leading open wheel series. Citing difficulty to compete in Formula 1 during current economic uncertainty, Toyota leaves the series with the past week's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix serving as their farewell to the sport.

Entering the series with their own factory team Panasonic Toyota Racing in 2002, the operation was bred off a sports car effort which saw the Japanese automaker come close to winning the 24-hour of Le Mans. As Panasonic Toyota Racing attempted to gain on the established benchmarks Ferrari and McLaren, the team was launched into the spotlight on a negative note when two team engineers were suspected and eventually sentenced on industrial espionage charges for smuggling data from their former employer Ferrari.

Providing rides to Cristiano da Matta, Mika Salo, and Ralf Schumacher, Jarno Trulli had been the longest driver residing with the factory supported Toyota F1 effort. Running the final two races of 2004, Trulli would score the team's best finish of 2nd at the 2005 Bahrain Grand Prix. With 2005 being the team's best showing in the manufacturer's points with fourth, Panasonic Toyota Racing would never achieve the Formula 1 victory they had so sought.

Also in 2005, Toyota began entering into a customer engine agreement away from Panasonic Toyota Racing. Starting first with Jordan/Midland F1 team, AT&T Williams would secure the Toyota powerplant from 2007 to the end of this season. Williams had already stated they're switching to Cosworth engines for 2010.

The 2009 Formula 1 season for Panasonic Toyota Racing saw early success from team drivers Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock which included a pair of 3rd place podium finishes scored by Trulli. During their final outing at Yas Marina, the Toyota factory team scored a total of 5 championship points with drivers Kamui Kobayashi (replacing Timo Glock after a crash in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix) brilliantly finishing 6th and Jarno Trulli placing 7th respectively. The Panasonic Toyota Racing team finished a firm 5th in manufacturer points for the season.

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