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Akio Toyoda says sorry to Toyota fans for quitting Formula One

Toyota president Akio Toyoda apologised on Wednesday to the thousands of fans feeling “betrayed” by the Japanese manufacturer’s decision to withdraw from Formula One.

Toyota president Akio Toyoda says sorry to Toyota fans for quitting Formula One - Telegraph
By Telegraph staff
Published: 5:39PM GMT 04 Nov 2009

Tadashi Yamanashi - Toyota quit Formula One
Sob story: Tadashi Yamanashi, Toyota team principal, breaks down in a press conference held to announce the team's withdrawal from F1 Photo: GETTY IMAGES

In a sensational press conference in Tokyo, the world’s largest car maker confirmed it was quitting a sport on which it has spent an estimated £1.6billion since 2002 without registering a single win.

"It was a tough decision because we are betraying the expectations of fans," said Toyoda, a racing enthusiast and grandson of the automaker's founder. "I apologize to our fans from the bottom of my heart. I made the decision myself."

Toyoda ruled out supplying engines to other teams, saying: "In terms of Formula One, we will make a complete withdrawal."

Tadashi Yamashina, Toyota F1’s team principal, meanwhile, broke down in tears as he said he would try to help the newly-released Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima and Toyota starlet Kamui Kobayashi find other teams.

Following tyre company Bridgestone's decision to stop at the end of 2010, F1 will be without a Japanese corporate involvement for the first time since 1983, and Toyota said its decision reflected "the current severe economic realities."

Honda and BMW have already exited F1 while Suzuki and Subaru have withdrawn from the world rally championship, motorcycle maker Kawasaki has exited MotoGP and Mitsubishi is quitting the Dakar Rally despite a dozen victories.

It remains to be seen whether Toyota sells on its Cologne-based team as a going concern. Honda won plaudits last winter when it essentially left $120million in the coffers – the cost of winding the company up – as part of Ross Brawn’s management buyout.

Japanese companies take such responsibilities extremely seriously and Toyota will not want to garner negative publicity from sacking hundreds of employees.

It is also unclear whether Bernie Ecclestone will try to sue the manufacturer after they signed a Concorde Agreement this summer committing them to the sport until 2012. “I don’t know,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s not the sort of thing we do is it?”

Toyota’s withdrawal should be the only major bombshell of the off-season. Of the three remaining manufacturers – Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault – there is speculation that Renault may try to sell their team but the other two are locked in, with Mercedes actually in the process of taking over Brawn GP.

One or two of the newcomers could fail to make it to Bahrain next March, however. As it stands, four new teams are entered for 2010 and Toyota's withdrawal paves the way for a fifth.

The Sauber team, which BMW bought and used as its F1 vehicle, was last month named as first reserve should any other teams pull out, although Ecclestone said it had not yet found a buyer.
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