APRIL 5, 2006

What happened at Toyota?

The news that Mike Gascoyne has left Panasonic Toyota Racing came as a surprise as things seemed to be moving in the right direction, particularly with Ralf Schumacher's third place in Melbourne. The problem, therefore, seems not to have been about performance but rather about longer term strategy. Dealing with Toyota-style corporate politics is never an easy thing to do, particularly for an aggressive F1 engineer like Gascoyne. Others have held similar roles but have backed off when it comes to conflict with the bosses but Gascoyne's view has always been that if something needs to be done, there is no point pretending otherwise. This was guarantee to cause conflict. Our spies tell us that the problem which led to Gascoyne's departure was related to a clash of opinions with Yoshiaki Kinoshita, the General Manager of Toyota's Motor Sport Division and the Executive Vice President of Toyota Motorsport. He is the second most senior executive involved in the racing programme, under Toyota Motor Corporation Executive Vice President Kazuo Okamoto, a Toyota main board member.

Kinoshita has been involved in Toyota's racing activities since 1989 when he first worked on the World Rally Championship programme. He was also involved in the Le Mans programme of 1992-1993 and then from 1996 to 2001 was in America in charge of the Toyota CART programme. Since 2004 Kinoshita has been in charge of all technical developments in Toyota motorsport activities around the world and since last year has had an executive role in the team. Gascoyne joined the team in 2003.