Toyota’s first Formula 1 car will be unveiled to the world on 23 March 2001 at one of motor sport’s most historic and challenging Grand Prix tracks; Circuit Paul Ricard near Marseille in the South of France.

Under an agreement between Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) and Excelis (Circuit Paul Ricard), the facility will now be the home track for the Toyota F1 project. A state-of-the-art workshop will house the team cars and engineers for a rigorous 11 month test schedule.

Toyota and Circuit Paul Ricard already have an established relationship. The team used the punishing track as a rollout and prime test site for the GT-One car, which led for most of the 1998 Le Mans 24 Hours and finished second in the 1999 race.

The launch of the first Grand Prix chassis and engine to be made entirely by the world’s third largest car maker will mark the start of a relentless testing programme for the Toyota team. Engineering and associated staff will work on improving the speed and reliability of the car, designed by the team led by Andre de Cortanze, and Toyota’s own V10 Formula One engine, designed under the supervision of Norbert Kreyer. Staff from racing partners such as Michelin will share the Toyota facility at Circuit Paul Ricard.

The team will also test on the majority of Grand Prix circuits in preparation for the car’s debut in 2002. The testing will be carried out by Finn Mika Salo, a veteran of teams such as Ferrari, Sauber, Lotus and Tyrrell and the newly crowned American Le Mans Sportscar champion Scot Allan McNish.

“What we expect from the drivers obviously is a big effort with this testing programme,” explained team manager Ange Pasquali. “Especially Mika bringing with him all his experience from the past, which means 7 years in Formula 1. Our initial plan is that Mika would be on the development side of the car and Allan would run the tests to collect data on new circuits. So Mika will be spending more time than Allan at Paul Ricard.”