With the 2006 Formula 1 season rapidly approaching its finale, Panasonic Toyota Racing will this weekend enjoy its home race, the Japanese Grand Prix. The penultimate event of the 18-race season will also be the last grand prix to be held at Suzuka before the venue switches to the Fuji International Speedway in 2007. So there will be plenty of reasons for Toyota to seek a good result on its home soil. But most of all the team will want to put on a show for the massed ranks of loyal local support – along with the employees and executives of Toyota. Following the difficulties faced in last weekend's wet weekend in China, the team's race drivers Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli will be pushing hard for the best possible result to send everyone home happy.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 7): "It is now over ten years since I first drove a car around Suzuka. During my year racing in the Japanese F3000 championship I grew to learn the circuit very well and it is still my favourite track on the calendar. It has every type of corner and makes for an excellent driving challenge. There are many important sections on the track, notably the first sector up to and including the famous Esses. Of course I will be sad to see Suzuka go from the calendar, but I'm also looking forward to racing at Toyota's home track at Fuji next season. For a racing driver it's always very enjoyable to race in Japan because the Japanese fans are very enthusiastic about motor sport so we've always been well received. But the Japanese Grand Prix is an extra special event if you're a Toyota driver, as I found out when I secured pole position there last year. Hopefully this year we will be able to challenge near the front again and come away with a strong result in the rac e."
Jarno Trulli (Car 8): "The Japanese Grand Prix is obviously a very important event for everyone involved with Toyota because it is our home race and we will have so many people cheering us on. The Japanese fans are passionate about F1 and they give you huge support – especially if you're driving for a home team. Japan is very different from Europe but I get on well with the Japanese and I have many Japanese friends dating back as far as my days in karting. I also have a big fan club in Japan and I look forward to meeting many of my fans this week. This will actually be my third Japanese Grand Prix as a Toyota driver because I made my debut for the team at Suzuka in 2004. But the first time I visited the track was in 1990 for a go kart race. It's a very difficult circuit with a great mix of corners making it very enjoyable for drivers. We struggled in China but rest assured we will be pushing as hard as possible to give all the fans and employees something to cheer on Sunday."
Pascal Vasselon – Senior General Manager Chassis: "At Toyota we push as hard as we can at every single F1 race because there is always pressure. But we have extra motivation for Suzuka, because we really want to reward all the Toyota fans and employees who will be there and give them memories to be proud of. This will be the last Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka for now because the race is switching to the Fuji International Speedway next year. I'm sensitive to the history and legend of Suzuka, but I enjoy the challenge of discovering new circuits so I will look forward to racing at Fuji in 2007. Suzuka is a driver's circuit which is demanding for high speed balance because you have a lot of medium and high speed changes of direction. Grip is always massively important, but in Suzuka you can compromise that to find balance. Handling is key and the car has to be predictable and driveable. It's one of the lightest circuits on brakes but it's tough on tyres where we have to aim for
the hard end of the range. In normal conditions Suzuka is a circuit which suits the characteristics of our car well so it's fair to say we are hoping for a strong race!"