RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, CA (October 25, 2000) - After earning 25 off-road championships, a CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Series title and five years of CART FedEx Championship Series competition together, PPI Motorsports and Toyota today jointly announced the end of their successful 19-year motorsports relationship. The partnership will conclude following this season's Baja 2000 (Nov. 9-16), in which PPI Motorsports will field its Toyota Tundra Trophy Truck with drivers Ivan "Ironman" Stewart and Larry Roeseler.
Although contracts between the two parties extended into 2001, the decision to end the partnership at the conclusion of the 2000 racing season was ultimately reached through mutual agreement by both PPI Motorsports and Toyota. "Toyota Motorsports owes a great deal of gratitude to the decades long participation exhibited by the entire PPI Motorsports organization," said Jim Aust, TMS Vice President of Motorsports. "Our unequaled accomplishments in off-road racing coupled with our entrant and success as an engine supplier to the CART FedEx Championship series would not have been possible without the support and dedication of PPIM, Cal Wells III, and his staff."
"We have been a proud part of the Toyota Motorsports family for a long time," said Cal Wells III, PPI Motorsports president. "We've grown to accomplish some incredible successes together, not just in off-road where we had some unforgettable highs, but also in our joint CART program and our participation in the Toyota Atlantic championship.
"In looking back at our history with Toyota, it is especially rewarding to have been a part of their CART engine development program since 1996," Wells continued. "Knowing that we helped to both introduce a new manufacturer to the series and ultimately reach the success the program enjoys today adds meaning to what we've accomplished together. It's something we're very proud of."
Since 1982, PPI Motorsports' off-road and open-wheel history has been very closely connected to Toyota. That was the year Precision Preparation, Inc. (PPI), founded as a small off-road racing company in 1979, joined forces with the engine manufacturer to field a pair of Toyota-powered stadium and off-road championship-winning short-course trucks. The duo soon expanded into full desert competition with drivers such as Ivan "Ironman" Stewart, Steve Millen, Rod Millen, Robby Gordon and Jeff Huber, garnering a total of 88 wins and 25 championship titles to date.
In 1994, when Toyota announced the formation of its CART engine program, PPI quickly established a CART team to support the effort. The team's Ford-powered entry in 1995 paved the way for its expanded relationship with Toyota in 1996, when the two came together for Toyota's first year of competition in the CART series.
PPIM fielded a Toyota-powered entry in 1996 with driver Jeff Krosnoff, who was killed in a devastating race accident in Toronto halfway through the season. Current CART standout Max Papis helped rebuild the team for the remainder of the 1996 season, then led PPIM's two-car Toyota effort for two more years alongside drivers Hiro Matsushita and Robby Gordon.
In 1999, PPIM hired 1998 Indy Lights champion Cristiano da Matta and 10-year CART veteran Scott Pruett for its most successful season in five years, earning a then-best finish of fourth for the team and Toyota as well as Toyota's first pole position. This year, PPIM's best-ever in the CART series, has seen da Matta earn the team's first win in Chicago after teammate Oriol Servià landed the team's first podium in Detroit. Following last weekend's Honda Indy 300 in Australia, da Matta and Servià are ranked 10th and 15th in points, respectively, as the team moves toward the series season finale in Fontana.
As a complement to its Toyota-powered CART program, PPI formed a two-car Toyota Atlantic team in 1997. Within three years, this competitive effort earned PPI its first open-wheel championship title (1999) and also served, along with support from Toyota, as the foundation for CART's African-American and Women's Driver Development Programs. In addition, the program helped train mechanics and other personnel for promotion to PPIM's CART team.
Through the years, PPI and Toyota have shared joint off-track business interests as well. Since the mid-1990s, PPI Specialties (a division of PPI) has managed several motorsports projects headquartered at the Toyota Motorsports Garage in Torrance, Calif. These projects included servicing Toyota CART Pace Cars and show cars; designing and building the CART Toyota T-100 and Toyota Tundra safety truck fleets; and building and servicing the Toyota Celica celebrity race cars used at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.