- Toyota in motorsports
Since it's introduction to motorsports in the early 1970s,
Toyotahas been involved in a number of motorsportactivities, most notably in Formula One, NASCAR, IndyCar, sports car racing, and rallying. Currently, Toyota participates in Formula Oneand NASCAR, although Toyota cars are still entered in rally competitions these are privateer entries and are not backed by the company themselves.
Formula One (F1)
In 2002 Toyota started racing in Formula One with Toyota Team Europe, based in
Cologne, Germany. Despite a huge investment, the team's performances have been considered less than average by fans and pundits alike.
In 2004, designer
Mike Gascoynewas hired to help turn things around (as he had done previously at Jordan Grand Prixand Renault F1). However, due to a lack of results and a difference in opinion with the management about how the team should progress he was released from his contract early midway through the 2006 season; by 2005 the team had advanced from the midfield to infrequently challenging for the top positions. Jarno Trulliachieved two second places and one third place in the first five races of the season, helping the team to retain second position in the Constructors Championship for several races before finishing 4th in the constructors championship. Drivers for season 2008 are Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock. Timo Glock will replace Ralf Schumacher.
Toyota races the
Toyota Tundrain the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Seriesand the Toyota Camryin the NASCAR Sprint Cup Seriesas well as the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Goody's Dash Series
Toyota made its first move into the NASCAR ranks with the introduction of its V6-
Celica Goody's Dashprogram in 2000. Robert Huffmanhelped make Toyota a legitimate contender for the series title by its second season while placing second in the championship in both 2001 and 2002. In 2003, Huffman broke through to become Toyota's first-ever NASCARchampion to win the series title.
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
Bill Davis Racing, Billy Ballew Motorsports, Germain Racing, HT Motorsports, Red Horse Racing, and Wyler Racingcurrently run the Toyota Tundrain the Craftsman Truck Series. Travis Kvapilgave Toyota it's first win in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in the 2004 Line-X 200 at Michigan International Speedwayin his Tundra sponsored by Line-Xand owned by Bang! Racing. Todd Bodinebecame the first driver to give Toyota their first ever NASCAR championship by winning the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Title in 2006.
NASCAR Nationwide Series
Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Braun Racingand Germain Racingcurrently run Toyota Camrys in the Nationwide Series. Jason Lefflergave Toyota it's first win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in the Kroger 200 at O'Reilly Raceway Park on July 28, 2007in his Camry sponsored by Great Clipsand owned by Braun Racing.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Michael Waltrip Racing, Bill Davis Racing, Red Bull Racing Team, Joe Gibbs Racing, Hall of Fame Racing, and BAM Racingcurrently run Toyota Camrys in the Sprint Cup Series.
After success in the Craftsman Truck Series, Toyota moved to the then Busch Series (now
Nationwide Series) and NEXTEL Cup Series (now the Sprint Cup Series) with the Toyota Camry for 2007. Three relatively new, small teams spearheaded the initial Toyota Cup program: Michael Waltrip Racing, Bill Davis Racing, and Red Bull Racing Team. Toyota has struggled in its first season in Sprint Cup, harnessing only two poles in 36 races, and posting only one five top-5 and ten top-10 finishes across 7 Toyota teams. After the 2007 season, Toyota added 3-time champion Joe Gibbs Racingand affiliate Hall of Fame Racingto the Camry lineup. BAM Racingalso joined Toyota Motorsports early in the 2008 season. Kyle Buschgave Toyota its first NASCAR Sprint Cup Serieswin in the Kobalt Tools 500at Atlanta Motor Speedwayon March 9, 2008. Busch led a race-high 173 laps in his Snickerssponsored Camry, owned by Joe Gibbs Racing. [ [http://www.scenedaily.com/news/articles/sprintcupseries/Busch_puts_Toyota_in_Sprint_Cup_victory_lane_at_Atlanta.html Busch puts Toyota in Sprint Cup victory lane at Atlanta - Sprint Cup Series - Scenedaily.com ] ] The only drivers that have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with the Toyota Camry so far are Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. Midway through the 2008 season, Toyota has more Sprint Cup victories than any other manufacturer.
CART IndyCar World Series/IRL IndyCar Series
Toyota raced in the CART IndyCar World Series from 1996 to 2002. Its early years in the series were marked by struggles. Toyota-powered cars, campaigned by the All-American Racers and
PPI Motorsportsteams, languished at the back of the grid, slow and unreliable. Toyota didn't even lead a lap until Alex Barron led 12 laps at the Vancouverstreet circuit in September 1998.
Toyota started seeing its fortunes improve in 1999 as
Scott Pruetttook pole position at the final race of the season at the California Speedway. The next year, Juan Pablo Montoyagave Toyota its first-ever CART win at the Milwaukee Mile, the first of 5 races won by Toyota-powered cars that year. Toyota-powered cars won six races in 2001. In 2002, Toyota's final year in the championship, it turned things around completely from its bleak debut. Toyota won the Manufacturer's championship, 10 races, and Cristiano Da Mattarode Toyota power to the driver's championship, with Bruno Junqueira, also Toyota-powered car, finished second.
Toyota moved to the IRL
IndyCar Seriesin 2003 and provided factory support to former CART teams Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing as well as other teams. They were one of the top engines in their first year, winning the Indianapolis 500with Gil de Ferranand the championship with Scott Dixon. However, 2004 and 2005 were not so kind and wins were few and far between. Following the 2005 IndyCar Series, Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing announced they would switch to Hondaengines, leaving Toyota with no championship contenders. As a result of this and their intent to re-allocate resources for NASCAR, Toyota announced they would leave the IndyCar Series during the off-season.
Toyota started recruiting staff for their Le Mans efforts in 1997, with an aim to start a
Formula Oneteam. Toyota's efforts for a Le Mans car was the Toyota GT-One, which was driven by ex-Formula One drivers: Martin Brundle; Thierry Boutsenand Ukyo Katayama. The 3.6 litre twin-turbo GT-Ones were beaten in 1998 and 1999 but came close to victory, breaking down late in the race. The GT-One held the lap record for the Sarthe Circuit up until 2006 however.
Toyota's presence in motorsport can be traced back to the latter part of 1972, when Swedish driver,
Ove Andersson, drove for Toyota during the RAC Rallyof Great Britain. During the winter of 1972, Andersson formed "Andersson Motorsport" in his native country and began running a Rallying program for Toyota. The move turned out to be an impractical one and three years after establishing his team, Andersson moved its base from Sweden to Brusselsin Belgium. From there the team was renamed, " Toyota Team Europe".
Toyota's first win in motorsport came at the 1975
1000 Lakes Rallyof Finland, when Hannu Mikkolaand his co-driver, Atso Aho, won the event in a Toyota Corolla. Three years later, the team moved to a new base in Cologne, in western Germany. It wasn't until the 1980s when Toyota began to gain notable success, especially in the African rallies, where Björn Waldegårdand Juha Kankkunenwere usually top of the time sheets. The team then set-up its all purpose motorsport facility in Cologne three years later, which is still used today.
In the 1990 season,
Carlos Sainzgave Toyota its first ever championship win in a four-wheel drive Toyota Celicaand repeated the feat two years later. In 1993, Toyota bought the team from Andersson and named it "Toyota Motorsport GmbH", in the same year Juha Kankkunen won the WRC title and Toyota won the constructors' championship, becoming the first Japanese manufacturer to do so. This success was repeated a year earlier, but this time it was Frenchman Didier Auriolwho was responsible.
1995 proved to be a difficult year for Toyota, as the team were caught using illegal
turbochargers and were given a 12-month ban by the FIA. The company returned to rallying in the 1996 season, but its competition, notably Mitsubishiand Subaru, had a clearer advantage over their cars.
1997 would prove to be another uncompetitive year for Toyota, with the team still behind its fellow Japanese manufacturers, Subaru and Mitsubishi, and Carlos Sainz the highest placed Toyota driver in the drivers' championship in third place, 11 points behind champion
Tommi Mäkinen. Sainz came within one point of the 1998 title, when his Corolla suffered an engine failure on the final stage of the final rally in Great Britain, while Toyota were within six points of the constructors' championship, many people place the blame on Toyota's choice to run Belgian Freddy Loixas one of the team's points scoring drivers at the Rally Catalunyainstead of regular driver Didier Auriol, because Auriol managed to win the event ahead of second-placed Loix.
Toyota decided to quit running in the WRC at the end of the 1999 season, quoting that "all that can be achieved has been achieved". The team managed to secure the manufacturers' title in their last season, 18 points ahead of their nearest rival Subaru, while Didier Auriol came within 10 points of the Drivers' title. Toyota were replaced the following season by
Peugeot, who went on to win the manufacturers' title in succession from 2000-2002.
In March 2007, Toyota debuted its
Super 2000Corolla rally car, which will compete in the Australian Rally Championship. [ [http://www.worldcarfans.com/news.cfm/country/jcf/newsID/2070302.005/toyota/toyota-corolla-super-2000-debut Toyota Super 2000 Corolla debut] ]
*cite web |url=http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/con-toyot.html |title= GrandPrix.com GP Encyclopedia > Toyota Motorsport |accessdate=2008-02-19 |publisher=GrandPrix.com
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