Toyota has confirmed it will pull out of Formula One with immediate effect.
The firm announced the decision at a news conference this morning, having taken the decision in an earlier board meeting. Toyota is the third manufacturer to exit the sport in the last 12 months, after Honda and BMW also quit.
In a statement, the company said the current economic situation had made it impossible to continue in F1. The departure would allow it to focus on its core road car business and its F1 experiences would allow it to “develop exciting production vehicles”.
"Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announces it plans to withdraw from the FIA Formula 1 world championship at the end of the 2009 season," said a Toyota statement.
"TMC, which had viewed its participation in F1 as contributing to the prosperity of automotive culture, remained dedicated to competing at the pinnacle of motor sports even in the face of the abrupt economic changes that started last year.
"However, when considering TMC's motorsports actitives next year and beyond from a comprehensive mid-term viewpoint reflecting the current severe economic realities, TMC decided to withdraw from F1"
Team boss John Howett had remained adamant the team would remain in the sport next year, albeit with a reduced budget, and it had committed itself to it until the end of 2012 by signing the new Concorde Agreement.
TMC posted its worst ever end of financial year results in March and is expected to announce tomorrow a large operating loss for the first six months of this year. There had been clues that the team could be poised to quit in recent months; it pulled its Fuji circuit from the F1 calendar and ended an engine supply deal with Williams a year early.
The Cologne-based team made its debut in the sport in 2002 and competed in 139 grands prix. It achieved three pole positions and 13 podium finishes in that time, with a best constructor’s finish of fourth place.
After a promising start to this season, its form dipped and ended up fifth in the standings, although two podiums late in the season showed improvement.
TMC president Akio Toyoda has said the firm’s decision was not down to poor results. "Our decision would not have changed even if we had a victory," he said. "The fact that we are unable to give our drivers a chance to compete is very sad."
Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli both the left the team at the end of this season and talented young Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi was set to race for the team next year. If money was an issue for Toyota, its pursuit of Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica to lead the team next year suggested otherwise.
There are now no major Japanese manufacturers left in global motorsport after Toyota’s F1 departure. Subaru, Mitsubishi and Suzuki have all pulled out of the WRC in recent years, while tyre supplier Bridgestone has also left the sport. Toyota has vowed to continue in other motorsport categories, however.
"In motorsports, [Toyota] will not only race in various categories, but will also actively contribute to further development of motorsports by supporting grassroots races and planning events in which it is easy for people to participate," said the statement.
Its place on the grid next year is expected to go to the former BMW Sauber team.