The new millennium brings new challenges and hopefully new triumphs on a variety of fronts for Toyota, varying from the streets of Long Beach to the Mexican deserts, and from the winding mountain road of Pikes Peak to the high-banks of Daytona. Toyota now is among the largest supporters of motorsports in the United States, both competitively and through a variety of sponsorships.
After closing out 1999 with its first pole position, Toyota will be looking to open 2000 with its first Champ Car victory.
With the addition of four-time defending CART champion Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, Toyota is expected to field four or five cars for the 2000 FedEx Championship Series. Cal Wells' PPI Motorsports and Della Penna Motorsports return to join the two-car Target entry.
Two PPG Cup champion drivers, along with the top two rookies from last year's FedEx Championship, will lead the way against stiff competition from fellow engine manufacturers Ford, Honda and Mercedes-Benz. Toyota Racing Development (TRD), U.S.A., based in Costa Mesa, Calif., plays a major role in developing and building every Toyota Champ Car engine.
"Champ Car racing is among the greatest challenges in all of motorsports," said J. Davis Illingworth, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (TMS) senior vice president. "If you can win in this series, it's a tremendous accomplishment."
Toyota is no stranger to winning motorsports programs. PPI Motorsports continues to keep its stranglehold on SCORE Desert competition as Ivan 'Ironman' Stewart, drove a Toyota Tundra Racing V8-powered Trophy-Truck to overall victory at the Baja 500 in 1999. In total, the Toyota/PPI team has earned more than 80 wins and 27 championships in its 17-year relationship.
Rod Millen Motorsport also has had much success with Toyota power. Earning the 'King of the Mountain' title for the past five of six years at the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Millen campaigned a highly modified Toyota Tacoma and won 'overall' honors again at this year's July Fourth event in Manitou Springs, Colo. He hopes to return in 2000 to break the illusive 10-minute barrier.
Millen also began competing in the Championship Off-Road Racing (CORR) series in 1999 with his Toyota Tundra in the Pro 4 division for full-size, four-wheel drive vehicles. He joined three-time Pro-Lite CORR champion 'B!G' Johnny Greaves in his Toyota Tacoma. Both teams will return with Greaves graduating up to the Pro-2 Class in a new Toyota Tundra.
For 2000, Toyota will also be making its debut in one of NASCAR$B!G(Bs premier touring series, the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series. TRD has developed a V6 overhead cam engine that will be used initially by Van Cleef Racing from Alabama, with Eric Van Cleef as a driver. The team will race a Toyota Celica, kicking off the season at Daytona International Speedway in February.
In addition to the on-track success, Toyota has become one of the major supporters of American motorsports through its corporate sponsorship. This season, Toyota is presenting sponsor at four CART Champ car events. Toyota is the presenting sponsor of the races at Homestead, Fla., Nazareth, Pa., Brooklyn, Mich., and Fontana, Calif., as well as serving as the 'Official Vehicle' at Elkhart Lake, Wis., and Houston and the 'Official Truck' at Cleveland.
Toyota remains the title sponsor of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, where its U.S. motorsports involvement began 25 years ago. Today, the race has become the most popular stop on the FedEx Championship Series schedule and the longest-running street race in America.
The 26th running will feature Champ Cars, plus the Toyota Atlantic Championship series and the fan-favorite Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. For the 24th consecutive year, celebrities will pilot identically prepared Celica GTS models in a 10-lap contest. The star-studded event has helped Toyota generate more than $700,000 for the 'Racing For Kids' charity program benefiting the Southern California children's hospitals.
Toyota's sponsorships, however, aren't devoted solely to events. In its 12th year as overall sponsor, Toyota, via TRD, provides the 'spec' engine for the Toyota Atlantic Championship. Race-modified, 4-cylinder, 1.6-liter, 16-valve twin-cam engines developing 250 horsepower are used by all competitors.
In addition to supporting the development of future Champ Car stars, for the fifth consecutive year Toyota has taken a hands-on interest in keeping the current CART drivers safe and on the race track. As the 'Official Truck of CART,' Toyota trucks are used exclusively by the CART Safety Team at each race in North America and in Japan.