Toyota in motorsports

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Since its introduction to motorsports in the early 1970s, Toyota has been involved in a number of Motorsport activities, most notably in Formula One, NASCAR, IndyCar, Sports car racing, and Rallying. Currently, Toyota participates in Formula One and NASCAR; although Toyota cars are still entered in rally competitions these are privateer entries and are not backed by the company themselves.

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Formula One (F1)

Main article: Toyota F1
The Toyota TF107, Toyota F1's car for the 2007 Formula One season.

In 2002 Toyota started racing in Formula One with Toyota Team Europe, based in Cologne, Germany. Despite a huge investment, the team's performances have been considered less than average by fans and pundits alike.

In 2004, designer Mike Gascoyne was hired to help turn things around (as he had done previously at Jordan Grand Prix and Renault F1). However, due to a lack of results and a difference in opinion with the management about how the team should progress he was released from his contract early midway through the 2006 Formula One season; by 2005 the team had advanced from the midfield to infrequently challenging for the top positions. Jarno Trulli achieved two second places and one third place in the first five races of the season, helping the team to retain second position in the Constructors Championship for several races before finishing 4th in the constructors championship. Drivers for season 2008 are Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock. Timo Glock will replace Ralf Schumacher.

In 2007 Formula One season, Toyota are also supplying engines to the WilliamsF1 team.

NASCAR

Toyota races the Toyota Tundra in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as well as the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Dale Jarrett enters pit road at Texas in the #44 UPS Toyota Camry in their inaugural season.

Goody's Dash Series

Toyota made its first move into the NASCAR ranks with the introduction of its V6-Celica Goody's Dash program in 2000. Robert Huffman helped make Toyota a legitimate contender for the series title by its second season while placing second in the championship in both 2001 and 2002. In 2003, Huffman broke through to become Toyota's first-ever NASCAR champion to win the series title.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

Bill Davis Racing, Billy Ballew Motorsports, Germain Racing, HT Motorsports, Red Horse Racing, and Wyler Racing currently run the Toyota Tundra in the Craftsman Truck Series. Travis Kvapil gave Toyota its first win in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in the 2004 Cool City Customs 200 at Michigan International Speedway in his Tundra sponsored by Line-X and owned by Bang! Racing. Todd Bodine became the first driver to give Toyota their first ever NASCAR championship by winning the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Title in 2006.

NASCAR Nationwide Series

Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Braun Racing and Germain Racing currently run Toyota Camrys in the Nationwide Series. Jason Leffler gave Toyota its first win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in the Kroger 200 (Busch) at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis on July 28, 2007 in his Camry sponsored by Great Clips and owned by Braun Racing.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Kyle Busch has already given Toyota 17 wins in NASCAR: eight of its nine wins in the Sprint Cup Series, six in the Nationwide Series, and three in the Craftsman Truck Series. Toyota has 33 wins combined in NASCAR's top three series this season.

Michael Waltrip Racing, Bill Davis Racing, Team Red Bull, Joe Gibbs Racing, Hall of Fame Racing, and BAM Racing currently run Toyota Camrys in the Sprint Cup Series.

After success in the Craftsman Truck Series, Toyota moved to the then Busch Series (now Nationwide Series) and NEXTEL Cup Series (now the Sprint Cup Series) with the Toyota Camry for 2007. Three relatively new, small teams spearheaded the initial Toyota Cup program: Michael Waltrip Racing, Bill Davis Racing, and Team Red Bull. Toyota has struggled in its first season in Sprint Cup, harnessing only two Pole position in 36 races, and posting only one five top-5 and ten top-10 finishes across 7 Toyota teams. After the 2007 season, Toyota added 3-time champion Joe Gibbs Racing and affiliate Hall of Fame Racing to the Camry lineup. BAM Racing also joined Toyota Motorsports early in the 2008 season.

Kyle Busch gave Toyota its first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 9, 2008. Busch led a race-high 173 laps in his Snickers sponsored Camry, owned by Joe Gibbs Racing. [1] The only drivers that have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with the Toyota Camry so far are Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. Midway through the 2008 season, Toyota has more Sprint Cup victories than any other manufacturer.

CART IndyCar World Series/IRL IndyCar Series

Toyota raced in the Champ Car from 1996 to 2002. Its early years in the series were marked by struggles. Toyota-powered cars, campaigned by the All-American Racers and PPI Motorsports teams, languished at the back of the grid, slow and unreliable. Toyota didn't even lead a lap until Alex Barron (driver) led 12 laps at the Vancouver street circuit in September 1998.

Toyota started seeing its fortunes improve in 1999 as Scott Pruett took pole position at the final race of the season at the California Speedway. The next year, Juan Pablo Montoya gave Toyota its first-ever CART win at the Milwaukee Mile, the first of 5 races won by Toyota-powered cars that year. Toyota-powered cars won six races in 2001. In 2002, Toyota's final year in the championship, it turned things around completely from its bleak debut. Toyota won the Manufacturer's championship, 10 races, and Cristiano Da Matta rode Toyota power to the driver's championship, with Bruno Junqueira, also Toyota-powered car, finished second.

Toyota moved to the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series in 2003 and provided factory support to former CART teams Penske Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing as well as other teams. They were one of the top engines in their first year, winning the Indianapolis 500 with Gil de Ferran and the championship with Scott Dixon. However, 2004 and 2005 were not so kind and wins were few and far between. Following the 2005 IndyCar Series season, Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing announced they would switch to Honda engines, leaving Toyota with no championship contenders. As a result of this and their intent to re-allocate resources for NASCAR, Toyota announced they would leave the IndyCar Series during the off-season.

Le Mans

The Toyota GT-One was raced in the 1998 and 1999 24 hours of Le Mans. Ex-Formula One drivers: Thierry Boutsen, Martin Brundle and Ukyo Katayama drove the GT-One in both events.

Toyota started recruiting staff for their Le Mans 24 Hours efforts in 1997, with an aim to start a Formula One team. Toyota's efforts for a Le Mans car was the Toyota GT-One, which was driven by ex-Formula One drivers: Martin Brundle; Thierry Boutsen and Ukyo Katayama. The 3.6 litre twin-turbo GT-Ones were beaten in 1998 and 1999 but came close to victory, breaking down late in the race. The GT-One held the lap record for the Sarthe Circuit up until 2006 however.

Rallying

Toyota's presence in motorsport can be traced back to the latter part of 1972, when Sweden driver, Ove Andersson, drove for Toyota during the RAC Rally of United Kingdom. During the winter of 1972, Andersson formed Andersson Motorsport in his native country and began running a Rallying program for Toyota. The move turned out to be an impractical one and three years after establishing his team, Andersson moved its base from Sweden to Brussels in Belgium. From there the team was renamed, Toyota Team Europe.

Toyota's first win in motorsport came at the 1975 1000 Lakes Rally of Finland, when Hannu Mikkola and his co-driver, Atso Aho, won the event in a Toyota Corolla. Three years later, the team moved to a new base in Cologne, in western Germany. It wasn't until the 1980s when Toyota began to gain notable success, especially in the Africa rallies, where Björn Waldegård and Juha Kankkunen were usually top of the time sheets. The team then set-up its all purpose motorsport facility in Cologne three years later, which is still used today.

In the 1990 World Rally Championship season, Carlos Sainz gave Toyota its first ever championship win in a Four-wheel drive Toyota Celica and repeated the feat two years later. In 1993 World Rally Championship season, Toyota bought the team from Andersson and named it Toyota Motorsport GmbH, in the same year Juha Kankkunen won the WRC title and Toyota won the constructors' championship, becoming the first Japanese manufacturer to do so. This success was repeated a year earlier, but this time it was France Didier Auriol who was responsible.

Carlos Sainz, World Champion of 1990 World Rally Championship season and 1992 World Rally Championship season, driving the Toyota Corolla WRC during the Monte Carlo Rally of World Rally Championship 1999 results.

1995 World Rally Championship season proved to be a difficult year for Toyota, as the team were caught using illegal Turbo chargers and were given a 12-month ban by the FIA. The company returned to rallying in the 1996 World Rally Championship season, but its competition, notably Mitsubishi and Subaru, had a clearer advantage over their cars.

World Rally Championship 1997 results would prove to be another uncompetitive year for Toyota, with the team still behind its fellow Japanese manufacturers, Subaru and Mitsubishi, and Carlos Sainz the highest placed Toyota driver in the drivers' championship in third place, 11 points behind champion Tommi Mäkinen. Sainz came within one point of the World Rally Championship 1998 results title, when his Corolla suffered an engine failure on the final stage of the final rally in United Kingdom, while Toyota were within six points of the constructors' championship, many people place the blame on Toyota's choice to run Belgian Freddy Loix as one of the team's points scoring drivers at the Rally Catalunya instead of regular driver Didier Auriol, because Auriol managed to win the event ahead of second-placed Loix.

Toyota decided to quit running in the WRC at the end of the World Rally Championship 1999 results, quoting that "all that can be achieved has been achieved". The team managed to secure the manufacturers' title in their last season, 18 points ahead of their nearest rival Subaru, while Didier Auriol came within 10 points of the Drivers' title. Toyota were replaced the following season by Peugeot, who went on to win the manufacturers' title in succession from 2000-2002.

In March 2007, Toyota debuted its Super 2000 Corolla rally car, which will compete in the Australian Rally Championship.[2]

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