Toyota to grab 12th team status for 2002

THE Toyota Motor Corporation has now officially confirmed that it is closing down its World Rally Championship program at the end of the season. "We intend to end our participation as a factory team at the end of this year," said Toyota Motorsport's Gwyn Dolphin during a press conference on the San Remo Rally. "We will continue our development for private teams and for commercial purposes but we will not contest next year's championship."

The company is expected to announce in December that it will enter Formula 1 at the start of 2002, taking advantage of the FIA's recent decision to keep open a 12th team slot. Toyota will have to pay $48m as a guarantee that they will be on the grid in 2002 but this will be paid back with interest as soon as the team begins competing.

The company did confirm that it will be using its own chassis and engine and it is virtually certain that the entire operation will be based at the Toyota Motorsport headquarters in Cologne, in Germany. The company has already done a considerable amount of recruitment with ex-Ferrari engineer Luca Marmorini and Ilmor's Max de Novelis having already been employed to design an engine for the company. This will not be ready before the autumn of 2000 and will then probably spend a year being tested before the team enters F1 in 2002.

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