Japan's Toyota Motor announced today that it is pulling out of Formula One racing after this year, meaning with immediate effect.
The withdrawal comes as the auto industry starts to stabilise after a sales crunch in the wake of the financial crisis.
Toyota’s pullout would be another major blow for F1 after Japan’s number two carmaker Honda quit the series last December to cut costs.
It would also continue the drain of Japanese companies from motor sport, which has seen Subaru and Suzuki withdraw from the world rallying championship and bike maker Kawasaki scrap its MotoGP team in the grip of a severe market downturn.
Japanese tyremaker Bridgestone announced earlier this week they would not renew their tyre supply contract with F1 after the 2010 season.
Toyota’s Fuji International Speedway circuit in July gave up the hosting rights for the Japanese Grand Prix in 2010 and beyond to reduce costs amid the global economic downturn.
The pull-out of Japanese companies from F1 began with Honda-backed Super Aguri, who left for financial reasons early last year.
Toyota was the only remaining Japanese team in F1, but have no drivers signed for next season and were dropped as Williams’ engine partner for 2010.
The world’s biggest carmaker have failed to win a race since entering F1 in 2002 despite an estimated annual budget of around US$300 million (RM1,028 million).
Their departure from the sport would leave just three manufacturers — Ferrari (FIAT), Mercedes and Renault. It would also open the door for BMW-Sauber’s new Swiss owners to take their place as the 13th team on the grid.
Toyota signed the concorde agreement earlier this year committing themselves to F1 until at least 2012, so a pullout could also have legal ramifications.