Name: Toyota Motorsport

Jarno Trulli, Malaysian GP 2008

Jarno Trulli, Malaysian GP 2008 

 © The Cahier Archive

The history of Toyota Motorsport can be traced back to the autumn of 1972 when rally driver Ove Andersson first drove for Toyota in the RAC Rally. That winter he established Andersson Motorsport in his native Sweden and began running the Toyota rally program. This was not very practical and in 1975 the team moved to Brussels in Belgium where it became Toyota Team Europe, funding coming from Toyota dealers around Europe. That year the team scored its first World Championship victory with Hannu Mikkola and his co-driver Atso Aho winning the 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland in a Toyota Corolla Levin. The team moved on to Cologne in Germany in 1979.

It was not until the 1980s that the team began to win on a regular basis, being most successful on the African rallies with drivers Bjorn Waldegaard and Juha Kankkunen. In 1987 the team moved into a new purpose-built facility which remains its headquarters today.

In 1990 Carlos Sainz gave the organization victory in the World Rally Championship with the Toyota Celica 4WD and that success was repeated in 1992. The following year the Toyota Motor Corporation bought the team from Andersson and it became Toyota Motorsport GmbH. The same year Juha Kankkunen won the World Championship and Toyota took the first Manufacturers' title to be won by a Japanese firm. This double success was repeated with Didier Auriol in 1994 but the following year the team was caught using illegal turbo restrictors on the Catalunya Rally in Spain. The team admitted that the parts had been illegal but said that the management of the team had not known about it. The team was banned from competing for 12 months by the FIA.

Although the company returned to the World Rally Championship in 1996, the opposition was much stronger and the team was unable to re-establish the dominance of the early 1990s. At the start of 1997 Toyota began to recruit staff for an assault on the Le Mans 24 Hours race, with the long term aim being to enter Formula 1. The Toyota GT-One was ready for the 1998 event and Toyota hired an impressive driver line-up including former Grand Prix drivers Thierry Boutsen, Martin Brundle and Ukyo Katayama. The 3.6-liter twin-turbo V8 engined cars were fast but were beaten in both 1998 and 1999.

At the end of 1999 Toyota announced that it was closing down the World Rally Championship team in order to concentrate on the planned Formula 1 program. The team secured the 12th entry for the FIA Formula One World Championship and entered the World Championship in 2002 with drivers Mika Salo and Allan McNish with a car designed by Gustav Brunner. The results were solid but not spectacular and at the end of the year the team dropped both drivers and hired Olivier Panis and CART Champion Cristiano da Matta.

Things did not go well and Toyota then decided to hire Mike Gascoyne to lead the design team. Da Matta departed in the middle of 2004 but for 2005 (Gascoyne's first full car) the team hired Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher. The results were good and the team finished fourth in the World Championship and went into 2006 with ambitions to win races but things soon began to fall apart with Gascoyne's abrupt ways leading to his departure early in 2006. The two drivers continued to be inconsistent and there were some who believed that the car would have achieved more in the hands of hungrier drivers.

2007 proved even more of a disappointment, with the team scoring only 13 points - 22 points less than the previous year. Schumacher left the team, and Formula 1, at the end of the season and was replaced by fellow German Timo Glock for 2008.