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Panasonic Toyota Racing

One Team, 32 Nationalities

Motorsport
Panasonic Toyota Racing
Panasonic Toyota Racing
Panasonic Toyota Racing is a United Nations of Formula 1. In its challenge to succeed at the top, the team has from the very beginning embraced the international nature of the sport and can truly claim to be a global effort.

Toyota has strong roots not only in two countries, but in two continents, thanks to its home in Cologne, Germany and its parent company Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan. That is unusual in itself but delve deeper and there is a team of an incredible 32 nationalities, united in their passion to succeed.

Variety, they say, is the spice of life but for Panasonic Toyota Racing, each individual brings unique skills and the exotic mix of nationalities adds a wealth of different experience and viewpoints which enhance the team's potential.

"We are a very multi-national team so this creates challenges but all of us find it refreshing," says team President John Howett. That is a view shared by race driver Ralf Schumacher: "It is like a gift, you can learn and experience things for future life."

For a Japanese-owned team based in Germany, it is no surprise to find plenty of Japanese and German staff. In that, the team is far from unique but how many teams can boast staff from Togo and Poland, managers from Brazil and secretaries from South Korea?

Panasonic Toyota Racing is proud of this diversity, and the team members thrive on such a multi-cultural environment. Bennett Akaboatse sums up the feeling when he says: "It is an opportunity to learn more about other cultures. I am very proud of being here."

Bennett, from Togo, works with in the lifing department of the test team and it is his job to ensure car parts are replaced on time.

The test team, as well as the race team, are a multi-cultural group and, behind the data screens, is found one of the very few Poles in Formula 1. Long before Robert Kubica made his Grand Prix debut, Bartek Bartoszewicz was playing his part in Panasonic Toyota Racing's push for success.

Bartek works in the engine department, monitoring data and telemetry at the track so the team know every element of the engine's performance, on every second of every lap. "It's certainly a very colourful mix," he says. "But we have developed a strong sense of unity even if we speak different languages. We have really formed a family."

In the day-to-day life of a multi-national team the issue of language is important. English is used by all team members but at the factory and the track, several other languages can be heard.

It is easy to think this mix of languages could divide a team but at Panasonic Toyota Racing the opposite is true. Italian truckie Paolo Ferrari reveals long drives to race tracks and hard work building up pit garages have helped him and his colleagues develop their own unique dialect.

"We have a mixed dialect. We have some German, Italian and English words altogether so we have got our own language to be honest," he explains.

For engine engineer John Matsushita it is a mix of working cultures, as well as language, which impresses him.

John has American and Japanese nationality and lives in Germany, giving him a unique perspective on life with the team. "When things are happening at the track, it's not about working with Japanese or Americans - it's about trying to get the car to go as fast as it can."

Naturally, a shared language and shared culture can have its advantages though, something race engineer Gianluca Pisanello has discovered in his work with Jarno Trulli. "You need to communicate with a driver in a quick and effective way, not only verbally but also with a few glances - you have to understand each other."

It's not just language and working habits, but eating habits which can be different, and it is test team manager Gerd Pfeiffer's task to keep everyone happy. He says: "Everyone has grown up with their own national dish. We have to mix them up a bit and then everyone has something to complain about! Naturally it doesn't taste as good as mother used to make."

But it is not the food that is eaten, but way it is eaten that can be different, as communications coordinator Virginie Papin recalls: "My very first days were quite an experience. When I ate in the canteen, after half an hour everyone was gone. French people like to enjoy their food and take their time, this is not the way in Germany."

At Panasonic Toyota Racing, team members are not separated by nationality, they are united by one aim - to win races and fight for the World Championship.

Jarno Trulli, the Italian with a Finnish name, Swiss home and German-based team, sums up this outlook. He says: "In this team you have different people from all around the world. This is because you try to get the best people, no matter what nationality or religion. It is important what they are good at."