With the chequered flag finally in sight on the longest season in Formula One history, Panasonic Toyota Racing is heading for its home race in Japan. The team, which has enjoyed the most successful season in its four years in the sport, will now look to cap off the year with a strong result in front of its armies of local supporters - along with the employees and executives of Toyota itself. Drivers Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher will both benefit from new specification RVX-05 engines at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix. The performance step marks the end of Toyota's Formula 1 V10 development programme with the introduction of V8 units due in 2006. The dynamic driving duo will be looking to motor their way into the points in Suzuka to increase the team's 81-championship point tally and strengthen its hold on fourth place in the constructors' standings.
Jarno Trulli made his debut for Panasonic Toyota Racing at last year's Japanese Grand Prix. This time he will be looking to leave with a bigger prize.
Jarno Trulli (Car 16): "Suzuka is a very good, technical circuit where set-up is even more important than usual because of the big mix of corners. We would obviously like to do well at the Japanese Grand Prix because it is the home race for our team. The Japanese fans are passionate about the sport and they really get behind you - especially when you're driving for a Japanese team. I made my debut for Toyota here last year so I've already sampled the atmosphere - although it was a strange weekend because of the weather that wiped out Saturday's qualifying. But we have come a long way since then. This year we'll go there with much higher aims, and we could even have a chance of a podium. That would be a great way to cap off an excellent season."
Ralf Schumacher knows Japan well having raced in Formula Nippon before his arrival in F1 and he is looking forward to a return to his favourite circuit as a 'home' driver.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 17): "I am really looking forward to driving for Toyota in Japan in front of the passionate Japanese fans. Suzuka is a circuit I know well from my time racing in the country before I arrived in Formula One. It is also my favourite track on the calendar because it provides a really good mix of corners and a big challenge for all the drivers. The evidence this year shows that we go pretty well on high speed tracks so it would be great to have another strong performance here. I won the Japanese F3000 championship in 1996 so I have good memories of the country and I always look forward to my trips there. Local knowledge can also come in handy if there is a wet race as you can predict which areas of the track will dry the quickest. We will certainly be aiming to bring home some more points and who knows? Perhaps we can even make it to the podium."
The uniquely-shaped Suzuka track is one of the most challenging circuits on the calendar both for the drivers and the engineers who have to set up a car for every type of corner.
Mike Gascoyne - Technical Director Chassis: "Suzuka is an extremely challenging circuit, enjoyed by both drivers and engineers. It ranks alongside Spa as most people's favourite. What makes Suzuka stand out is that it contains a rich blend and mix of corners, including the fast and tricky 130R and the daunting first corner leading up to the Esses. We also have a slow hairpin and the long double-apex left-hand Spoon corner. Unlike Spa, there are no long straights so we run with fairly high levels of downforce. The only real passing opportunity can be found heading into the chicane before the end of the lap, but following a car closely through 130R is difficult, so drivers have to be totally committed to pull that off. The Japanese Grand Prix has the additional importance of being a home race for Toyota. We have a strong technical relationship with our colleagues in Japan and o all the Japanese Toyota executives and employees are keen to share the 2005 success with us all, so we will pull out all the stops to make a return trip to the podium."