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Salo confirmed by Toyota

TOYOTA confirmed at Spa that Mika Salo will be joining Allan McNish to test the company's Formula 1 cars next year. Salohad been under contract for 2001 to Sauber but the Swiss team was unable to meet the necessary performance clauses to keep the Finnish driver and so he was able to leave. Sauber announced Salo's departure a day before Toyota, which was rather a graceless thing to do. Salo's deal with Toyota is a long-term one and we believe also includes links with Toyota after Salo finishes his F1 career.

"My decision to test instead of race next year was not taken lightly," Salo said, "but having seen how much effort is going into the Toyota project, I am happy to take this step in the knowledge that my F1 experience will contribute significantly to the development of the team."

Salo warned the Toyota team that there should be no illusions about F1 and that there was going to be "heartache and disappointment" in the years ahead.

The Toyota press conference gave the Japanese car manufacturer the opportunity to give details of its plans to build a vast 30,000 sq. meter factory in Cologne and to employ 550 people on the F1 program by the start of 2002. The plans include the construction of a 50% rolling road windtunnel and an engine department boasting eight dynos. The first Toyota V10 engine should be ready to run on a dyno within a month but the first chassis is not expected to appear until early next year. The team has already completed 12,000 km of running since February when McNish began running in a Toyota GT-One sportscar fitted with a variety of different F1 systems. Whether this testing will be of much value remains to be seen.

The team announced that Italian Ange Pasquali will be team manager. He has no experience in F1 but has worked in the World Rally Championship and in sportscar racing. The team did not name anyone to the post of Sporting Director and we understand that this was because negotiations to sign up Arrows team manager Steve Nielsen collapsed a couple of days before the launch. This is a major setback for the team as Nielsen is the most highly-rated of the younger team managers in F1 and his presence would have helped Toyota attract specialist F1 engineers. At the moment Toyota has several departments in which there are no people with F1 experience.

Toyota was very careful to make a low key announcement and asked the F1 media not to be too harsh in its judgement on the program.

"We have chosen to build a complete F1 car - engine and chassis, rather than just supplying an engine to an existing team," said Toyota Motorsport chairman Tsutomu Tomita. "In this way, starting with a clean sheet of paper, we will learn much more from the project and success and failure along the way will be ours and ours alone."

Toyota Motorsport president Ove Andersson said: "it is a formidable challenge so I must beg you to give us understanding and time to progress."

To date, the F1 circus has not been very impressed with the Toyota effort because the company has taken very little notice of warnings from F1 insiders that it is suicide to locate the team in Cologne.

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