Panasonic Toyota Racing today unveiled the TF108, its entry for the 2008 FIA Formula 1 World Championship and the car it expects to challenge at the front next season.
At the team`s technical centre in Cologne, Germany, key figures from Panasonic Toyota Racing joined drivers Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock and Kamui Kobayashi to take the wraps off the TF108 in front of the worldwide media and thousands of fans live on www.toyota-f1.com.
Toyota`s challenging spirit and determination to meet ambitious targets has played a key part in the evolution of the TF108, with key features of the new car being a longer wheelbase, a major aerodynamic upgrade, revised suspension and a new gearbox. Wind tunnel tests and simulations show the TF108 is a marked improvement on its predecessor and the team expects to move closer to its long-term aim of winning races and fighting for the World Championship.
Chairman and Team Principal Tadashi Yamashina says: "Of course, our ultimate target is the middle step of the podium - we are in Formula 1 to win and we want to do that soon. Our clear target in 2008 is to make a big improvement in our results because we were not satisfied with our performance last year. We expect to have a truly competitive car so our drivers should be aiming to finish in the points regularly and challenging for the podium."
Using the renowned Toyota Way principles to encourage innovation and a spirit of challenge, the team have worked tirelessly to finalise the TF108 concept and put their innovative thinking into practice, as Yamashina-san adds: "At the factory everyone is motivated and pushing as hard as possible, always aiming for kaizen, continuous improvement.
"The team work is very impressive and communication is very good between all departments which has definitely helped in the development of the TF108. Everybody is working together as one unit so I am very happy with that. We have real team spirit.
"We have great potential in this team - we have the right people in place and the right resources so we have every reason to be optimistic."
Since making its Formula 1 debut in 2002, Panasonic Toyota Racing has strengthened and learnt from experience. The challenge of building the entire car - chassis and engine - under one roof, with a new team is significant but everyone at the Cologne technical centre is impatient to succeed and great strides continue to be made towards the ultimate goal.
President John Howett says: "We look in good shape for 2008, there is no question about that. The hard work continues all the time. We started the TF108 in earnest more or less the day the TF107 hit the track and the development has been remorseless, which it has to be because of the competitive pressure of Formula 1.
"The key issue has been to identify the major elements which contribute to performance enhancement and put more resources into those areas. Clearly the car is improving, I think, dramatically and continually, but so are the other cars. It is therefore the relative rate of performance gain that is absolutely critical. We have to work harder and smarter than our competitors."
The TF108 is significantly different to its predecessor, on the outside and the inside, as a result of the team`s continuous search for improvement, as well as regulation changes.
Formula 1 technology is constantly evolving and the team`s designers have kept pace, resulting in noticeable changes for the TF108. A key change is that increase in wheelbase, the distance between front and rear axles.
Senior General Manager Chassis Pascal Vasselon explains: "The main reason for making the wheelbase longer is to achieve more stability, but secondly we also expect greater aerodynamic development potential, giving our aerodynamicists wider surfaces and more space to play with."
As well as a longer wheelbase, the TF108 boasts a distinctive new aerodynamic concept and advanced suspension lay-outs.
"The aerodynamic concept of this car has changed," adds Pascal. "The TF107 was an evolution of the TF106 but this time the new package is a departure from recent Toyotas. The primary aerodynamic design philosophy for the TF108 is geared towards optimising the entire package. In mechanical terms we felt we had a strong basis so we have focused on making a few refinements."
A key element of Toyota Way thinking is genchi genbutsu - going to the source - and in developing the TF108, Pascal and his team have analysed the TF107`s characteristics to find performance solutions. He says: "In 2007, the performance overall was not where it had to be so there were obviously some weaknesses. The objectives for TF108 development are aerodynamic efficiency and drivability. For 2008, we want a car offering a wider operating window."
Improvement is not restricted to chassis development and under the skin of the TF108 lies a new gearbox and, importantly, a new electronic control unit (ECU) for the RVX-08 engine.
In 2008, all teams must use the same ECU while electronic driver aids such as traction control and engine braking have been banned. The change to a standard ECU represented a major challenge, as Senior General Manager Engine Luca Marmorini explains: "On a Formula 1 engine, or indeed any modern car engine, even the mechanical parts are controlled by electronics so this is a big, big change.
"For a high revving engine, like in a Formula 1 car, the engine will definitely change a lot from a dynamic point of view due to a change in the control system. It is a big investment from a development point of view to adapt it."
Once again, engine development is frozen so only minor modifications have been allowed in the interests of reliability. However, the development effort from Luca and his team has not lessened; the focus has merely shifted. This has meant concentrating on how the engine is used, dragging every last bit of performance from the package as well as constantly improving the elements around the engine where development is allowed - all this while optimising engine performance with a new ECU and the traction control ban.
"That work does have a positive effect on performance and lap time but we are not speaking about big changes because we do not have the freedom," Luca says. "We can only work within this very strict framework but we have done some interesting development and we expect to see positive results in 2008."
Of course, the launch of a new car is only the first step. Panasonic Toyota Racing has set ambitious targets for its latest car and intense development will continue up to and beyond the first race of the season in Australia on March 16, when the final aerodynamic package will be available.
The team is ready for the challenge ahead, as Pascal says: "Everyone has worked very hard to get to this stage but really the work is far from being complete. Now we will focus first on understanding the characteristics of the car on the track in order to steer set-up and development directions. There is a lot of work to do to get the most out of the car before the season starts so there will be no let-up in our efforts."
That work resumes immediately with the TF108 roll out on 13 January followed by its first official test a day later, also at Jerez. There are a further five tests before the start of a season which Panasonic Toyota Racing hopes to be its best yet.
New drivers, same ambitious goals for Panasonic Toyota Racing
Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock and Kamui Kobayashi were presented together for the first time as Panasonic Toyota Racing`s 2008 drivers at the team`s pre-season event in Cologne, Germany today.
Jarno begins his fourth full season as a Panasonic Toyota Racing race driver, with Timo joining as his new team-mate after winning the GP2 Series title in 2007. Kamui, a product of the Toyota Young Drivers Programme, is the new third driver and combines his role with racing in the GP2 Series.
The new TF108 is the product of an exhaustive research and development process, into which Jarno has contributed the benefit of his considerable Formula 1 experience, giving him confidence for the season ahead.
"My hopes are always high because normally I am very positive," he says. "I think that the team has got the potential, the resources, the people and everything necessary to bounce back to the position where we belong. I believe we can produce a good car for next year.
"I have been giving input into this car since the middle of the 2007 season, helping to develop the car to adapt to the new rules which ban traction control and engine braking. There is quite a big change in terms of electronics this year and I have spent time working with the team on this. I am doing all I can in order to help the team to step up."
The 33-year-old Italian joined Panasonic Toyota Racing towards the end of the 2004 season so 2008 represents his fourth full season with the team. He has developed a close working relationship with the team in that time and believes this will have a positive effect this year. He adds: "I really enjoy working with the team and I am comfortable here. I know the engineers and the way the team works so I think that kind of stability has to be an advantage. We work strongly as a team and we are pulling together to help move forward after the problems we had in 2007.
"Obviously it was a difficult season in terms of results and performance but we are all committed to making a significant improvement. I know the team very well and they know me very well - we understand each other`s potential and I am sure sticking together will be an advantage."
For 2008, Panasonic Toyota Racing`s race driver line-up has an exciting blend of youth and experience, with Timo moving up to his first full-time Formula 1 race drive.
He is already a proven champion after a superb season in the GP2 Series, where he showed his fighting sprit and adaptability to win the championship. But the 25-year-old is far from a stranger to a Formula 1 cockpit, having spent a year as test and then race driver for Jordan in 2004 before acting as BMW Sauber test driver last season.
His hard work and impressive feedback were obvious to the team when he tested a Toyota for the first time in December and the young German is ready for the challenge of Grand Prix racing, starting in Melbourne on 16 March.
"I can`t wait," he says. "It will be a very proud and exciting moment for me but I will also be focused on getting the best possible result in the race, as always. Formula 1 will be a little different compared to the other series I have raced in because I am racing against 21 of the best drivers in the world, but my job is still the same - to get the best possible result from my car."
After enjoying success in GP2, Timo is confident and motivated ahead of the 2008 season, when he expects to help the team achieve its goal of a significant improvement in results by scoring points regularly.
"I want to have the most successful season possible," he says. "I aim to be consistent and to help the team move upwards. My first goal will be to regularly challenge for points and I believe we will be able to do that.
"Even though I have not raced in Formula 1 since 2004, I have tested quite regularly so I expect it will take very little time for me to get back in the groove. I have been lucky enough to race and succeed in several different championships in my career but my goal has always been to become a full-time Formula 1 race driver. I believe my experience has made me stronger as a driver and as a person."
The youngest member of the driver line-up is 21-year-old Kamui, who continues his rapid rise up the motorsport ranks by stepping in as third driver.
Like fellow newcomer Timo, Kamui has already tested for Panasonic Toyota Racing, most recently at Jerez in December, and he showed the ability to make a positive contribution to car development - not to mention impressive fitness by completing over 200 laps in two days.
As well as developing the TF108 this season, Kamui expects to develop himself as a driver while learning more about the fastest racing cars on earth. He says: "Everything is just more extreme and it is a special experience to drive a Formula 1 car. It is difficult to drive at the limit of the car, at the limit of grip and at the limit of your concentration - it requires a high level of performance.
"It will be a challenge for me but I will always do my best. I will work hard on improving the car but also on improving myself because I do not have a lot of Formula 1 experience and I can get better in the way I communicate to my engineers and things like that."
He is clear about the task ahead as third driver, which is to work in tandem with the race drivers to continuously improve the TF108 throughout the coming season.
"It is very exciting to become a third driver in Formula 1 but I know there is a lot of work to do," he adds. "When I moved to Europe to start racing formula cars my ambition was to one day become a Formula 1 driver and it feels great to say I am now a Formula 1 driver. We all want to make a really good car and we are working hard to achieve that."
Kamui is not alone - everyone at Panasonic Toyota Racing is passionate about succeeding in Formula 1 and the whole team, including all three drivers, is fighting together to make 2008 a successful season.
TF108 Technical Specifications
Monocoque: Moulded carbon fibre and honeycomb construction.
Fuel tank: ATL safety cell
Suspension: Carbon fibre double wishbone arrangement, with carbon fibre trackrod and pushrod.
Wheels: BBS forged magnesium
Tyres: Bridgestone Potenza
Brakes: Brembo callipers and master cylinders, Hitco material (carbon/carbon)
Steering: Toyota power-assisted steering. Toyota carbon fibre steering wheel with Toyota / Magneti Marelli instruments
Driver`s seat: Carbon fibre
HANS device: Hubbard-Downing
Electronics: Toyota, Magneti Marelli plus McLaren Electronic Systems ECU (as required by FIA rules)
Transmission: 7-speed unit plus reverse
Overall length: 4636 mm
Overall height: 950mm
Overall width: 1800mm
Overall weight: 605kg inc driver and camera
RVX-08 Technical Specifications
Horsepower: Approximately 740bhp
Revolutions: Maximum 19,000rpm (as required by FIA rules)
Valve actuation: Pneumatic
Throttle actuation: Hydraulic
Spark Plugs: DENSO
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