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An earthquake in Aichi

November 4, 2009 Leave a comment

The last two days have seen Bridgestone and Toyota both confirm their withdrawl from F1. This, with the laughable likelyhood of Sato, Nakajima or Kobayashi finding a drive next year all but guarantees that we will soon be seeing the unthinkable: a complete absence of Japanese participation in the sport.

The consequences are dire. The Tokyo Motor Show (coverage of which is delayed due to these events) was another indicator that, at least in the domestic market, the Japanese auto industry is no longer clinging to the edge – it has let go.

The issues with F1, specifically, are not
limited to the Japanese teams. Were it not for the prop of middle-eastern investment, the whole F1 circus would have come grinding to a halt years ago as costs escalated. Toyota’s inability to control costs to the parent company owes much to the rigidness of an organization fixed to a corporate parent.

The same applies to BMW, and it’s clear that, moving forward, the large automaker as F1 team owner is an unsustainable arrangement.

In that sense (as in many) Toyota will not much be missed. But the vacuum its absence leaves is hard to swallow as a source of national pride. Toyota was relevant as the last Japanese team, in a series that in April 2008 featured three, with more than a third of the grid powered by Japanese engines, the whole grid shod in Japanese rubber and with two Japanese drivers. In a country where perception is everything, this is a crushing blow.

One imagines the possibilities if Honda’s management was braver a year ago…

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