While not a huge surprise, Toyota has announced today that it was pulling out of Formula One with immediate effect.
The Japanese manufacture is the third to jump ship after Honda left before the 2009 season and BMW announced in July it would withdraw at the end of this year.
The move leaves Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault as the only manufacturers in the sport.
"Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announces it plans to withdraw from the FIA Formula One world championship at the end of the 2009 season," the company said in a prepared 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 activities next year and beyond from a comprehensive mid-term viewpoint reflecting the current severe economic realities, TMC decided to withdraw from F1."
Conservative estimates have Toyota spending several billion dollars in F1 for little return. Since its debut in 2002, it had no wins, and only 13 podiums and three poles in 139 races. Its fourth place overall in the in the 2005 constructors' standings was its best showing.
The decision comes after Toyota announced a record $4.4 billion loss when it revealed its balance sheets for the year ending Mar. 31, 2009. It will likely announce more red ink on Thursday when its number for the first six months of this fiscal are revealed.
It also arrives on the heels of Bridgestone Tire Company's announcement that it would let its contract as F1's sole tire supplier lapse when expires at the end of 2010.
But it's not all bad news. Certainly the former BMW-Sauber team is just a bit pleased to see Toyota go as it needed an existing outfit to drop out for it to claim a grid spot for 2010.
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