IRL: Sayonara Toyota

In every phase of North American open wheel racing where Toyota has competed it's had to claw for success, one way or another. Starting with CART feasibility studies in 1993 it took a long, hard time to get to the top in CART/Champ Car and it's...

In every phase of North American open wheel racing where Toyota has competed it's had to claw for success, one way or another.

Starting with CART feasibility studies in 1993 it took a long, hard time to get to the top in CART/Champ Car and it's taking a long, hard time to get back to the top in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series.

On Monday Toyota Racing Development and its mother company Toyota Motor Sales USA announced their withdrawal "from the [open wheel] sport following the 2006 Indy Racing League season."

Toyota's impending departure has been another one of those leaked secrets, but there was conjecture the firm would slide away with Chevrolet in another ten races.

"The decision to withdraw from open wheel racing will not affect either the IndyCar Series engine development program for the remainder of 2005 or the 2006 season," the terse release said. None of the current contracts that Toyota has with individual teams are affected by this decision, the firm stated.

"Toyota will not be participating as an engine supplier to either of the major open wheel sanctioning bodies in the United States after 2006."

Struggling against perennial antagonist Honda over the past IRL season and a half, Toyota has four victories in 23 races, all courtesy Marlboro Team Penske.

Toyota Motor Sales USA's senior vice president J. Davis Illingworth pointed out the choice was "simply to move in a different direction after having our major U.S. motorsports emphasis on open wheel racing since 1994."

Before coming into open wheel racing, Toyota had wide success in IMSA sports cars with Dan Gurney's All American Racers.

"Just as our participation in IMSA sports car racing ran its course after 12 years of participation," Illingworth explained, "so has our U.S. open wheel racing program after 12 years in the IRL and CART."

The initial CART program with Gurney was announced in 1994 and the team began its on-track operations in 1996. Toyota got its CART title in 2002 with Cristiano da Matta and Newman/Haas Racing.

Toyota came to the Indy Racing League in 2003 and won it all: Indianapolis 500 with Gil de Ferran and Marlboro Team Penske, the driver's title with Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon and engine maker's championship.

After taking the 2004 season opener with Sam Hornish Jr. in his first drive for Penske, it would be until the season closer that Helio Castroneves would bookend it. Hornish Jr. won at Phoenix in March and Castroneves prevailed last weekend.

All the Toyota teams showed marked improvements at Richmond International Raceway last Saturday night, even though RIR's 3/4-mile banked oval is noted as a handling/set-up and strategy track.

It was apparent Toyota's prior-Friday testing had yielded some usable power management.

The big question is whether Toyota will, as surmised enter the NASCAR Busch Series in 2007. It currently competes NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series.

"Toyota is in the process of reviewing how to re-allocate its resources for future motorsports plans."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Dan Gurney , Chip Ganassi , Sam Hornish Jr. , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Toyota Racing