Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) has today welcomed over 400 of the world's media to its factory in Cologne, Germany to witness first hand how Toyota builds its entire Formula 1 car under one roof. Whilst inside TMG's nerve centre, attending journalists were also offered the chance to see the team's latest creation, its 2004 race car, the TF104.
Toyota Motorsport's high-tech and practical F1 headquarters is split 60-40 between the chassis and engine departments. With all areas essentially interlinked by a series of corridors, the factory's infrastructure is similar to the human central nervous system, which ensures that communication between all departments in the car development process is channelled efficiently. In this way, engineers, designers and technicians can work more harmoniously as one team.
The premises are around 30,000 square metres in size and incorporate the team's own 50% scale windtunnel, which has been fully operational since July 2002.
Daily interaction between TMG and Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan guarantees a non-stop flow of information, which serves as an integral part of Toyota's F1 programme.
Although the team is based in Germany with a parent company in Japan, Toyota is one of the most culturally diverse teams in Formula 1. The factory acts as the second home for over 600 employees of 32 different nationalities and it is this combination of cultures and characters that has resulted in Panasonic Toyota Racing becoming the indisputable United Nations of F1.
"Toyota's Formula 1 activities are unique in that we have decided to create our own Formula 1 car under one roof using our own technology and ability," explains Toyota Motorsport President John Howett. "This is certainly not the easiest route, but one that will deliver maximum long-term benefits for Toyota. The meticulous application of the Toyota culture and principles have been fundamental in getting us to where we are today and I believe that we will significantly raise our performance level in 2004 to get closer towards the top teams."
Preparations for 2004 were already well underway by the 2003 season finale in Suzuka. For all F1 teams, when one season ends, another begins. Over the winter months, Panasonic Toyota Racing rigorously analysed the 2003 season, in which it finished eighth in the constructors' championship and scored 16 world championship points.
Some personnel changes have been made since last season, most notably Tsutomu Tomita, who, in addition to his existing role as Chairman of TMG, has now become Panasonic Toyota Racing Team Principal. Tomita has replaced Ove Andersson, who at the age of 66 has assumed an advisory role to the company.
The team has also strengthened its technical area by appointing renowned F1 engineering specialist Mike Gascoyne as Technical Director Chassis to co-ordinate and oversee the chassis department, whilst existing engine boss Luca Marmorini has stepped up to become Technical Director Engine.
"I have taken over the exciting role of managing all Toyota's F1 activities on and off the race track, alongside John Howett," comments Tsutomu Tomita. "In order to make our technical areas more efficient, we have appointed Luca Marmorini and Mike Gascoyne as Technical Director in the engine and chassis departments respectively. Everyone in the team is fully committed to rapid, continuous improvement and teamwork and it is my firm belief that this will allow Panasonic Toyota Racing to make its biggest step forward in 2004. I want to see us achieve improved race results this season and, if conditions are favourable, score our first ever podium position."
"As Technical Director of the engine department," says Luca Marmorini, "I am looking forward to what will be a particularly challenging year for the team. The revised engine regulations have kept us busy, but I am confident we are in a good position to power our way to points in 2004."
Mike Gascoyne comments: "My role as Technical Director Chassis means that ultimately I am responsible for the day-to-day co-ordination of the entire chassis development. I have been quite impressed with what I have seen so far, but our fundamental goal must be to make Toyota a team that can mix it with the leading teams in the future and that will require a longer-term vision."
Both Marmorini and Gascoyne report directly to Executive Vice-President Toshiro Kurusu, as does Director of Technical Co-Ordination Keizo Takahashi who is responsible for the technical collaboration and liaison with Toyota Motor Corporation. Under the revised structure, Gustav Brunner and Norbert Kreyer continue in their positions as Chief Designer and General Manager of Race and Test Engineering respectively.
Brunner has been busy with his group of designers over the past ten months evolving last year's TF103 chassis to create the 2004 Panasonic Toyota Racing car, the TF104.
"Last year's TF103 was a competitive package, but we were unable to get everything out of it and the TF104 is a logical progression on that," explains Brunner. "Not one part of the car is the same as last year. We have made improvements and evolutions in all areas of the chassis, with a significant redesign of all of the car's critical internal components. Again, we have made big steps forward in the aerodynamics, as well as making the whole car lighter and stiffer."
Drivers Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta will continue to spearhead driving duties in 2004 after often impressive performances last season. Both are naturally anxious to get behind the wheel of the TF104 with the first race of the season in Australia just around the corner.
Olivier Panis adds: "On occasions in 2003, we showed what Toyota is capable of. Our race result in Hockenheim and our top three qualifying performances in Indianapolis and Suzuka proved that we could do the job. In 2004, we have to use these achievements as a springboard, to focus on reliability and get the results we deserve. That means plenty of points and a constant progression during the year."
Cristiano da Matta comments: "My first season in F1 was a lot of hard work but highly enjoyable. I was hindered by having to learn most of the circuits for the first time, but along with the team, I think I showed my potential. This year will be a different story and I will be on a level playing field to the other drivers, so we should aim for consistency in our performance and to make real progress to the top teams in 2004."
Ricardo Zonta, with whose valuable testing work the TF104 has been created, will be busy in 2004 as Third Driver. One of the new F1 regulations for '04, which permits teams from 5th-10th in last season's classification to run a third car in Friday's practice sessions, will give Zonta extra time in the cockpit.