Motor racing: Toyota targets grand prix debut

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The Independent Online
THE GIANT Japanese car maker Toyota announced yesterday that it intends joining the Formula One circuit alongside its rivals Honda, which is considering a return to grand prix racing. Hiroshi Okuda, the Toyota president, said team Formula Toyota aims to compete in F1 by 2003. "We have decided to take the challenge of the summit of auto racing," he said.

Toyota, stung by poor performances in other racing classes, said it would back the team with the funds necessary to build a winning car. "We wouldn't take the step into F1 without the resolve to win," Okuda said.

Toyota will begin development of a new engine and chassis, though Okuda declined to say exactly how much Toyota was willing to invest in the venture. He said Toyota intends fielding a Formula One team in an effort to brighten the company's image among younger car buyers, particularly in Europe. "We want to send a message to young people, that Toyotas are fun to drive," Okuda said.

He said Toyota's plans were not influenced by Honda's announcement last month that it may return to grand prix racing next year after a six-year hiatus. Honda said it has tested a prototype car with its own engine on a track near Milan.

Toyota also announced that it will add two new CART racing teams and will soon unveil a new engine that it hopes will reverse a string of disappointing finishes over the last three years. Its F1 team will be based at Toyota Motorsport GmbH, in Koln, Germany, and headed by Andre de Contanze, a 57-year-old French driver and winner at Le Mans.