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Toyota brands F1 as 'too elitist'

ESPNF1 Staff
May 19, 2010 « Prost signs up for Race of Champions | »
Toyota pulled out of F1 at the end of last season © Getty Images
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The head of ex-Formula One team Toyota has labelled F1 as "too elitist" and said his company will focus on other forms of motorsport that are more open to the public.

Toyota surprised the F1 world at the end of last season when it pulled out of the sport, blaming the "worsening economic climate" and apologising to fans for, "not being able to achieve the results we had intended to achieve". Ex-team principal Tadashi Yamashina, who is still a managing director at Toyota, believes car manufacturers are more likely to connect with potential customers in other forms of motorsport.

"There is a big gap between Formula One and Toyota's actual car users," he told Automotive News. "F1 remains the pinnacle of auto racing, but its image grew too elitist.

"At races such as Nurburgring [24 Hours], fans can get right into [the] pitlane, mingle with the teams and touch the cars. They can soak up the atmosphere and feel part of the event. By contrast, average fans have no hope of strolling the paddock at an F1 race. For the fortunate few who can afford to do that, it's fine. I think the best kind of races are those in which people can get in close to the race."

Toyota main focus is now NASCAR as well as producing customer sports cars through its luxury arm Lexus. It is currently evaluating the possibility of taking part in the World Touring Car Championship.