MAY 23, 2006
Williams and Toyota
Williams and Toyota have been talking for the best part of nine months. Rumours have circulated with the stories really depending on the sources involved. It has been clear for a long time that Toyota Motor Sports GmbH, the operation in Germany which runs Panasonic Toyota Racing, is not very keen on supplying its engines to Williams and would prefer to continue working with MF1 Racing, a team that offers no threat at all in terms of performance. The management in Cologne knows that they will be on very thin ice if they were to be beaten by a customer team. That would be fine if Panasonic Toyota Racing was doing better than it is but the fact is that the team has not had the performance expected this year and we have already seen Mike Gascoyne axed because of poor results.
When Williams began to think about a deal with Toyota, the team went directly to Toyota Motor Corporation's Motor Sports Division, headquartered at the Higashifuji Technical Center. This organisation is in charge of all Toyota's motorsports activities, overseeing the local hubs (Toyota Technocraft/TRD in Japan, TRD USA in the United States and Toyota Motorsport GmbH in Europe) and, according to our sources, was willing to Williams. Things do get to be a little bit complicated as the General Manager of the Motor Sports Division in Japan Yoshiaki Kinoshita is also an Executive Vice-President of Toyota Motorsport GmbH which means that while theoretically he dictates strategy for the team, he is also a subordinate of John Howett. Both men report to the Toyota Motor Company's Executive Vice President Kazuo Okamoto, who oversees all research and development activities.
We hear that despite huge profits Toyota is maintaining strict budgetary constraints because of the need for big investment in new technologies and factories in the years ahead. This means that Toyota has already decided that Williams cannot have money as well as engines but a free engine deal is believed to be on the table. Rumours from Germany that the team is also talking to Honda could be seen as a way to destabilise that deal or could be designed to try to convince Toyota to come up with some cash. It is difficult to know.
It remains to be seen whether Williams can work a deal to badge the engines as Lexus V8s. This has certainly been discussed at length and makes a great deal of sense.
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