Panasonic Toyota Racing
FEATURE: Innovation Fixation: The Search for the Secret Weapon
Whether it is testing new parts in the wind tunnel, analysing the latest track data to squeeze more performance out of the TF108 or challenging conventional wisdom on the drawing board, the quest for improvement never ends.
Several times a year the team introduces a major revision to its car, as has happened already in 2008 for the Australian and Spanish Grands Prix, but beyond that small modifications are made to the car for virtually every race and test, in line with the Toyota Way concept of kaizen; continuous improvement.
These aerodynamic improvements may not always be immediately visible - a small tweak to the angle of a wing flap or a minor change to the shape of a part - but small steps can make a big difference, while mechanical changes are nearly always hidden under bodywork.
The development of the TF108 encompasses a journey across Europe and beyond in the hunt for the Formula 1 holy grail; a secret weapon to leave the opposition trailing in your tyre tracks.
Cologne is the nerve centre of this high-tech, high-intensity operation but a Formula 1 team's reach is far and wide, to include suppliers from three continents and full test days in six countries in 2008 as well as aerodynamic tests on Menorca and in Lommel, Belgium. One look at the Panasonic Toyota Racing test team's activities in 2007 gives an indication of the dedication involved: more than 5,000 laps of official testing over 52 days, with five different drivers at the wheel.
Everyone involved is working together with one aim: to succeed in Formula 1. That is no easy task consideringall other teams are working equally hard to catch up or stay ahead of the competition but, throughout its business, Toyota has shown a challenging spirit and is constantly seeking innovation, making Formula 1 the perfect playground.
No stone is left unturned in this effort because, as Chief Engineer Race and Test Dieter Gass explains, even the smallest improvement can have a real impact on the final result: "If you have something in your pocket which improves car performance, even if it is only a tenth of a second, it is going to be very, very worthwhile any time in the season. The field is so close together even a tenth or two can make a very big difference at the end of the race."