Salo all set for Toyota

FINNISH driver Mika Salo will leave Sauber to join F1 newcomers Toyota next year -- his management team have announced.

Rumors of a deal with Toyota have been flying around the paddock for weeks, and these were confirmed by his assistant Jukka Mildh, who said on Wednesday that Mika had been offered a contract by the Japanese team.

The contract will be to test and develop the Toyota team's car in 2001, and will include a race deal for 2002. Salo's manager explained that it would be a "long term" contract, and hopes that exciting times are ahead for the talented Finn.

Salo shot to the top when he subbed for Michael Schumacher at Ferrari last season, but his year at Sauber has seen him take just six championship points this season.

The team currently lies seventh in the championship, and a clause in Salo's contract allows him to leave if they are lower than sixth.

Joining the Toyota team is a make or break move for the Finn and he will miss a year of Grand Prix racing while he develops the car, in a bid to make the team a force in Formula One.

BAR proved that it is very difficult for a new team to succeed straight away when they failed to score a point in their first season. However, by building the whole operation early, Salo's new team hope to hit the racetrack running.

Toyota is expected to make an official announcement regarding Salo's appointment at a press conference in Spa on Thursday.

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