MARCH 6, 2000
Toyota denies local government assistance
TOYOTA MOTORSPORT says that its decision to build a Formula 1 factory in Cologne was not based on any incentives from the local government. The revelation, however, adds to the belief in Formula 1 circles that the Japanese car manufacturer is making a big mistake in siting the factory in Cologne. Toyota says that the team has been based in Cologne for the last 21╩years and moving the operation elsewhere would inevitably result in the loss of members of the 400 staff who currently work there. This is probably a realistic fear.
The general feeling in Formula 1, however, is that Toyota needs to have a base in Britain if it wants to keep on the pace in the constantly-changing technological world of F1 chassis technology. The cluster of teams in Britain means that information passes between the teams very quickly, leaving the teams based on the continent at a disadvantage. In addition it has always proved to be much more difficult for the European-based teams to attract the top chassis engineers as they are all highly-paid and most want to remain based in Britain and not living abroad. Ferrari has twice tried to address this problem by setting up British satellite operations but these were not a great success because of friction between the British and Italian divisions. Although the company was able to attract top engineers Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne with money - and with the chance to work with Michael Schumacher - Ferrari's chassis performance has usually lagged behind rival teams.
In recent months Alain Prost has announced plans to move a lot of his production to a new facility in Britain in order to keep in touch with the British racing industry, and last autumn Peter Sauber and Fritz Kaiser went their separate ways after Kaiser suggested that the only way for a team to be successful in F1 was to set up in England.
Major car manufacturers have a habit of believing that normal F1 logic does not apply to them and that they are sufficiently clever to achieve what others have failed to do. This has led to embarrassment for several in the past and there is a school of thought in F1 that Toyota could be making the same mistakes.
We hear, incidentally, that the company has recently signed up someone to run the whole Toyota F1 operation but our sources say that the name is not familiar in Grand Prix racing. The technical side of the operation is being run by Frenchman Andre de Cortanze who has previously been involved with Sauber and Ligier.
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