Toyota in motorsports
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Since its introduction to motorsports in the early 1970s, Toyota has been involved in a number of motorsport activities, most notably in Formula One, NASCAR, IndyCar, Champ Car, sports car racing and rallying. Currently, Toyota participates in Formula One, Toyota Racing Series, Formula Nippon, Formula Three, NHRA, Grand Am, USAC, Super GT and NASCAR; although Toyota cars are still entered in rally competitions these are privateer entries and are not backed by the company themselves.
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 Rally of 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 Brussels in Belgium. The team was renamed to Toyota Team Europe.
Toyota's first win in motorsport came at the 1975 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland, when Hannu Mikkola and 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 was not until the 1980s when Toyota began to gain continuous World Rally Championship success, especially in the long-distance African rallies, where Björn Waldegård and Juha Kankkunen were 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 Sainz won the drivers' title, giving Toyota its first-ever world championship title in a four-wheel drive Toyota Celica, and repeated the feat two years later. In 1993, Toyota bought the team from Andersson and named it Toyota Motorsport GmbH. In the same year, Kankkunen won the world title and Toyota won the constructors' championship, becoming the first Japanese manufacturer to do so. This success was repeated a year later, but this time it was Frenchman Didier Auriol who clinched the drivers' world championship.
In 1995, Toyota were caught using illegal turbo restrictors at the Rally Catalunya and were given a 12-month ban by the FIA. FIA president Max Mosley called the illegal turbo restrictor "the most sophisticated device I've ever seen in 30 years of motor sports." Toyota and their drivers, Kankkunen, Auriol and Armin Schwarz, were also stripped of all points in the championships. Kankkunen had been in contention for the drivers' world title. Mosley stated that "there is no suggestion the drivers were aware of what was going on."
Toyota returned to the WRC with a World Rally Car based on the Toyota Corolla. The Corolla WRC debuted at the 1997 Rally Finland, with Auriol finishing in eighth place and Marcus Grönholm retiring. In the 1998 season, Sainz came within two points of the world title, after his Corolla WRC suffered an engine failure only 500 metres from the finish of the final stage of the final rally in Great Britain. Toyota were within six points of the constructors' championship.
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, four points ahead of their nearest rival Subaru, while Auriol placed third in the drivers' championship, coming within ten points of the drivers' title, and Sainz fifth.
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 Motorsports teams, 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 Vancouver street circuit in September 1998.
Toyota started seeing its fortunes improve in 1999 as Scott Pruett took pole position at the final race of the season at the California Speedway. The next year, Juan Pablo Montoya gave 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 Matta rode Toyota power to the driver's championship, with Bruno Junqueira, also Toyota-powered car, finished second.
Toyota moved to the IRL IndyCar Series in 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 500 with Gil de Ferran and 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 Honda engines, 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's 24 Hours of Le Mans efforts date back to 1980s with Dome prepared Group C cars. Factory supported Toyota Team Tom's competed in World Sportscar Championship and Le Mans until 1994, with varying results.
Toyota started recruiting staff for their Le Mans efforts in 1997, with an aim to start a Formula One team. Toyota's efforts for a Le Mans car was the Toyota GT-One. Driver line-up included ex-Formula One drivers Martin Brundle, Thierry Boutsen and 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 Circuit de la Sarthe up until 2006 however.
Goody's Dash Series
Toyota made its first move into the NASCAR ranks with the introduction of its V6-Celica Goody's Dash program in 2000. Robert Huffman helped 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 NASCAR champion to win the series title.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Randy Moss Motorsports, Billy Ballew Motorsports, Germain Racing, HT Motorsports, Stringer Motorsports, Xpress Motorsports, Red Horse Racing, and Wyler Racing currently run the Toyota Tundra in the Camping World Truck Series. Travis Kvapil gave Toyota its first win in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in the 2004 Line-X 200 at Michigan International Speedway in his Tundra sponsored by Line-X and owned by Bang! Racing. Todd Bodine became the first driver to give Toyota their first ever NASCAR championship by winning the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Title in 2006. Johnny Benson gave Toyota their second NASCAR championship in 2008.
NASCAR Nationwide Series
Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Braun Racing, CJM Racing, JTG Daugherty Racing, Marc Davis Motorsports, SK Motorsports and Germain Racing currently run Toyota Camrys in the Nationwide Series. Jason Leffler gave Toyota its first win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in the Kroger 200 at O'Reilly Raceway Park on July 28, 2007 in his Camry sponsored by Great Clips and owned by Braun Racing.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Michael Waltrip Racing, Germain Racing, Gunselman Motorsports, Kirk Shelmerdine Racing, NEMCO Motorsports, PRISM Motorsports, the Red Bull Racing Team, Joe Gibbs Racing, Robby Gordon Motorsports, Tommy Baldwin Racing, JTG Daugherty Racing, and BAM Racing currently 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 Racing and affiliate Hall of Fame Racing to the Camry lineup. BAM Racing also joined Toyota Motorsports early in the 2008 season.
Kyle Busch gave Toyota its first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 9, 2008. Busch led a race-high 173 laps in his Snickers sponsored Camry, owned by Joe Gibbs Racing.  At the end of the 2008 season, Toyota had 10 victories and Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch finished 8th and 10th respectively in the 2008 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
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 Gascoyne was hired to help turn things around (as he had done previously at Jordan Grand Prix and 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 Trulli achieved 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. Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock have been the drivers since 2008.
With the rule changes in the 2009 Formula One Season, the sport saw a massive change with powerhouse teams like Ferrari, McLaren, and Renault all having a relatively poor start and teams like Brawn GP moving up to the top. Among the new powerhouse teams is Toyota who has managed to score 3 podiums, and a total of five top-5 finishes after only 4 races (each F1 team has two cars, so after 4 races it is possible to score 8 top-5 finishes). In the Bahrain GP, Toyota locked down the front of the starting grid by qualifying into first and second place.
When asked whether Toyota was a title contender, Timo Glock responded by saying that while the start of the 2009 season had been "a big step forward", Toyota first had to focus on getting its first win.
At 08:00 Hrs GMT on 04/11/2009 Akio Toyoda announced that Toyota would be ceasing all Formula 1 activities with immediate effect, citing the economic environment as the main deciding factor. Toyota did not manage to ever win a Formula 1 race.
In the 1980s, Toyota participated in the IMSA GT Championship, using a Toyota Celica in the GTU class. Later Toyota partnered with All American Racers team and moved to the GTP class with sports prototypes such as the Toyota Eagle Mark III.
- "GrandPrix.com GP Encyclopedia > Toyota Motorsport". GrandPrix.com. http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/con-toyot.html. Retrieved 2008-02-19.
- "Official Toyota Racing Site". http://www.toyotaracing.com.
- "PUSH: The Official Panasonic Toyota Racing Team Magazine". http://www.toyota-f1-push.com.
- ^ "Toyota team pick up a one-year ban". The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/toyota-team-pick-up-a-oneyear-ban-1537474.html. Retrieved 21 March 2009.
- ^ Toyota Super 2000 Corolla debut
- ^ Busch puts Toyota in Sprint Cup victory lane at Atlanta - Sprint Cup Series - Scenedaily.com
- ^ http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2009/4/9253.html
- ^ http://www.formula1.com/news/interviews/2009/5/9312.html