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Toyota puts its money down

THE Toyota Motor Corporation is taking no risks with its plans to enter the Formula 1 World Championship and has lodged the $48m deposit demanded by the FIA. The rules allow for anyone who has paid the deposit to enter the sport up to two years after the payment, which means that the company could begin racing in either 2001 or 2002.

We hear that the company has given a commitment that it will be ready in 2001 and while this may seem rather a rapid program it should be remembered that Team Toyota Europe hired Ligier technical director Andre de Cortanze at the start of 1997. There was evidence in early 1998 that the company was looking at different engine options and by the end of that year TTE was hiring composite men and aerodynamicists.

It remains to be seen how advanced preparations are at Team Toyota Europe headquarters at Marsdorf, near Cologne, in Germany but it is possible that the company has engines running in secret at Marsdorf - where security between the various departments is incredibly tight - and that a car might be ready to test by the summer. If Toyota makes it in time for 2001 the company will receive monthly repayments (and interest) from the FIA in the course of the first season in action. If the company fails to appear in 2001 it will have to write off 25% of the deposit, which will be kept by the FIA. Toyota may have decided that it is worth spending $12m to secure an entry in 2002 - as the money will, in effect, be repaid in future income from Formula 1's constantly-increasing TV revenues.

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