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Benetton defense fails in rally world

THE Toyota rally team last week used the Benetton F1 team's 1994 defense against running illegal systems - but this time the FIA World Council threw out the argument - and banned Toyota from the World Championship for the next 12 months.

Toyota admitted to using illegal turbo restrictors on the Catalunya Rally in Spain last month and lay itself at the mercy of the court, just as Benetton did last year when it was proven that the team had illegally tampered with its refueling equipment to give itself an advantage in refueling. Benetton admitted the charge and the FIA agreed to let the team off the hook because the changes had been made by "a junior employee." In a secret deal, Benetton agreed to make substantial management changes to the team.

At the time, rival F1 teams were furious with the FIA which, they believed, had let Benetton get away with cheating because of the threat of legal action from the Benetton parent company for loss of image to the Benetton name. Benetton hired top British libel lawyer George Carmen to represent them in Paris, a move which observers felt was meant as a message to FIA president Max Mosley, a lawyer.

In the Toyota case, however, the FIA did not feel the need to let the team get away with it.

"Toyota said the decision had been made at a certain level of the team and that the management had not known about it," said Mosley, "but the team has to take responsibility."

Toyota's motorsport chief Ove Andersson did take the blame: "Obviously we have been up to no good and this has to be penalized," he said. "But in Formula 1 this happens and they take the points away for one race and they are racing again next week."

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