Panasonic Toyota Racing has today lifted the covers on its 2005 race car, the TF105, in front of 200 attending journalists and guests at the historic Estación de França railway station in Barcelona, Spain.
In 2005, Toyota believes it can enjoy its most competitive season to date in its short three-year F1 history. "Our ultimate goal is to win in F1," says Team Principal Tsutomu Tomita, "but we know it takes time. Our target with the TF105 is to make an important step on our way to victory."
Creation of the TF105 has been overseen by Mike Gascoyne and Luca Marmorini, respective Technical Directors of the chassis and engine departments. The TF105 is the product of a year-long process in which Toyota has focused on adapting to the challenging new technical regulations put in place by the FIA for the 2005 season.
"As soon as we began to get an indication of the likely regulation changes for 2005," explains Mike Gascoyne, "we started to set our targets accordingly. We compromised the development of our TF104B car in the final races of last season in order to try and gain a competitive advantage in 2005."
Panasonic Toyota Racing generally favours the revised technical regulations, which are aimed at further reducing the costs in Formula 1, whilst making the sport even more appealing to fans around the globe. "All teams have been willing to make compromises in order to assist the future of our sport," says Toyota Motorsport President John Howett. "I hope the changes that have been implemented for 2005 deliver the intended cost reductions, the anticipated improvement in racing and a real increase in value for the spectators and fans. If not, I hope the legislators will be flexible enough to introduce sensible changes in a smooth and appropriate manner."
Toyota has approached the 2005 season by continuing to focus on its internal resources and operations in order to enhance efficiency at its factory in Cologne, Germany. The team now believes that this meticulous approach over the past twelve months will enable it to significantly close the gap to the front-running teams this season.
"We endured a difficult season in 2004," admits Tomita, "but I firmly believe we have taken appropriate measures in the factory to turn the seemingly negative into tangible positives in 2005. We have made excellent progress in all departments, most notably in the windtunnel and machining areas. By striving to continuously improve the accuracy of our testing procedures, we are seeing an ever-improving correlation between the factory and the race track, which will permit us to get the maximum performance out of the car during the race weekend. Such progress over a comparatively short period has only been made possible as a result of our initial decision to develop the entire F1 car ourselves under one roof."
Toyota Motorsport's 600-plus employees hail from 32 different nations, perfectly complementing the truly international stature of the Toyota Motor Corporation. For 2005, the team's highly skilled and experienced F1 personnel have had to consider regulatory changes ranging from aerodynamic restrictions (to reduce downforce) to a stipulation that engines must last for two race weekends.
"We have enjoyed quite a smooth transition to the new engine rules," says Luca Marmorini. "We started at a very early stage to develop an engine that was increasingly reliable. During 2004, we began to improve the reliability of specific parts in the engine, and in fact we already used some of these parts in the RVX-04 model. Creating an engine to last somewhere in the region of 1,500 kilometres was an enjoyable and interesting technical challenge. I am confident that the RVX-05 will reflect our excellent in-house technical capabilities."
Also new for 2005 are race drivers Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher. The duo brings to Panasonic Toyota Racing a combined total of 257 grands prix experience. Alongside the team's test drivers Olivier Panis and Ricardo Zonta, Toyota can boast one of the strongest, most experienced driver line-ups in the pitlane.
"Jarno is an extremely quick driver and always determined to prove his worth," enthuses John Howett. "I am looking forward with enthusiasm to savour his trademark breathtaking qualifying laps in a Toyota. Like Jarno, Ralf has integrated into the team very smoothly. He has already demonstrated the pace and capability that has made him a proven race winner. Both will be a real asset to our team, but will undoubtedly place more pressure on us to perform in 2005."
Jarno Trulli was drafted into the race team for the two final grands prix of 2004 to allow the team to gain a headstart with its 2005 preparations. "I joined Panasonic Toyota Racing because I could see that it is a team with a huge potential," Trulli notes. "I was lucky to be able to start at the Japanese Grand Prix and that helped me to settle in easily and gain valuable time ahead of 2005 preparations. Coming from the position we finished last season, I think it is realistic to expect us to move closer to the front, but let's take things step by step. Toyota has the mentality to make it to the top, but it will take time."
Ralf Schumacher had his first taste of a Toyota back in November 2004 at a test session in Barcelona and was immediately impressed with what he found: "Joining Panasonic Toyota Racing gives me the possibility to be in a team that's still young and up-and-coming," he says. "With that in mind, I was very impressed by the professional nature of the team operations when I arrived for the first post-season tests in November. Having the engine and the chassis built in the same factory is important because everyone is working together towards the same goal. The fact that the team is based in Germany is an additional plus point for me personally and I believe that all these things give us the perfect combination for our future success together."
Backing up Trulli and Schumacher strongly will be Frenchman Olivier Panis and Brazilian Ricardo Zonta, both of whom celebrate their third year with Panasonic Toyota Racing in 2005. Panis retired from racing towards the end of 2004, but signed a two-year deal to be the team's official third driver. Although his role will be directed on driving at test sessions throughout the season, Panis will also act as the Toyota's reserve driver at race weekends, replacing either Trulli or Schumacher in the eventuality that they cannot race. "I am very excited and proud to continue the challenge with Toyota," Panis says. "I have a strong relationship with everyone and I am enjoying my new position in the test team. All the guys are professional and nice to work with, so we will be looking to significantly contribute to the development of the TF105 throughout the year.
Ricardo Zonta, meanwhile, will reprise the role he adopted in the first two-thirds of 2004, taking control of the third car in Friday free practice sessions at races. He will additionally assume an important testing function during the year. "It's a good opportunity for me," Zonta explains. "I'll just be returning to the job I had before I was lucky enough to fill in for a few races last season. To drive the third car on the Fridays is very important. Everybody has a lot of respect for the guys that do it, because it is critical for how the race weekend goes. Panasonic Toyota Racing has become like a second family to me, and I intend to use my race and test experience to help take us further up the grid in 2005."