OCTOBER 4, 1999
Toyota accelerating F1 plans?
The TTE Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar program is expected to survive for another season but will probably then be closed down as well as all efforts are concentrated on the planned Formula 1 project. The company says that it is still deciding whether or not to start its own team in Cologne or to link up with an existing operation. This seems to be a rather different position to a few months ago when Toyota sources were saying that it would be an all-Toyota operation. This change of heart is believed to have come about because of the disastrous debut season of British American Racing and the fact that TTE management has been told by a number of F1 teams that the organisation will struggle to get the right people to move from Britain to Cologne. If Toyota does decide to buy a team the obvious choice in Britain would be Benetton, which does not currently have a link with a major car manufacturer.
Originally, TTE was planning to enter F1 in either 2002 or 2003 but there have been rumours in recent weeks suggesting that this might be brought forward to support Toyota's drive into the European markets in 2001. In order for this to happen Toyota would need to move quickly to buy a team and to find an engine. It could rebadge the old Yamaha V10 and run this while developing its own in-house engine for 2002. An early entry makes sense if Toyota does decide to buy into a team as there is no need for the same period of preparation.