Toyota has declared itself resolutely committed to continuing in formula one despite what promises to be its first operating loss for 70 years as the depression in the global car industry worsens.
“We have absolutely no plans to withdraw from formula one,” a spokeswoman, Yoshie Matsu*ura, told the Guardian. Matsu*ura said Toyota had embarked on a major cost-cutting study but could not specify what measures were under consideration. “We know that [F1] is very expensive and that cost-cutting is the key to survival,” she said.
The Japanese car maker, on course to lose 150bn yen (£1.1bn) by the end of March 2009 rather than make a scheduled 600bn yen (£4.5bn) profit, pledged to *continue fielding its team. “We don’t have anything to add to the statement we made on 5 December because the financial results don’t change anything for us in the *formula one team,” said another spokesman. “Our situation has not changed.”
Speculation that Toyota was about to become the second manufacturer to leave formula one has mounted since Honda announced this month that it would quit the sport before the start of next season. David Richards, chairman of the Banbury-based Prodrive group, flew to the Middle East last weekend to discuss a possible rescue package for Honda.
However, Toyota’s team president, John Howett, said today that his company remained committed to formula one. “I guess everybody, not only motorsport teams, faced with the financial turmoil at the moment, is managing their business correctly, but I don’t think we are living hand-to-mouth or from day-to-day,” he said.
Howett, as vice-chairman of the *Formula One Teams Association, also backed calls made last week by Luca di Montezemolo, the Ferrari president, for a revaluation of the way in which the sport’s income is distributed by Bernie Ecclestone, the *commercial rights holder.
“I believe in the Champions League it is upwards of 96–97% of *revenues that is redistributed depending on where you finish, whereas at the moment we receive 50%,” said Howett. “So given the current circumstances people would like to *reopen that discussion.”