Panasonic Toyota Racing Officially Kicks Off 2007 Season
Panasonic Toyota Racing unveiled its new TF107 challenger at the Expo XXI conference centre in Cologne, Germany, on January 12th, 2007.
Toyota is the only one of the 11 F1 teams to go into the new season with the same engine, the same tire partner, and the same two race drivers. That unique degree of continuity will enable the team to hit the ground running and build on the experience gained over recent seasons.
Toyota has ambitious goals in Formula 1 and is aiming for success in 2007. 'Our fundamental challenge this year is to get the first victory,' says Chairman and Team Principal Tsutomu Tomita.
'We announced that a year ago, but we failed to succeed in 2006. And therefore we want to repeat that challenge in 2007. I know all the other teams are working very hard, particularly the top three. We have five years experience in F1, but still we are young in comparison with the top teams, therefore we have to be modest about it. But we would like to challenge them.
'The most important target to aim for this season is the first victory for Toyota in Formula 1,' he §äid. 'We want to be on the top step of the podium. We have improved in all areas, aerodynamics, suspension and gear change.'
The team has been strengthened in its quest for success by the arrival of George Tadashi Yamashina, who took over as Vice Chairman of Toyota Motorsport in December. Yamashina will compliment the roles of Tomita and President John Howett, forming a management trio to lead Panasonic Toyota Racing to success.
Last year the team did not meet its high expectations it had after success in 2005 but there is great confidence that the TF107 will see Toyota competing at the front again.
The team had a frustrating 2006 season but, in the spirit of kaizen, or continuous improvement, the new car benefits from all the knowledge and experience gained. With the right people in place and the will to win, the TF107 is the product of the team's potential.
Engine : 2.4 L., 8-cylinder
Power: 740 hp
While there is continuity in other areas, the TF107 is a completely new car, with virtually no parts carried over from the TF106 and TF106B that preceded it.
'It's pretty extensively changed in terms of basic lay-out,' says Howett. 'When we went from the V10 to V8 the back of the engine effectively stayed in the same place, and the chassis and fuel tank filled the space where the front two cylinders of the V10 were. Now we've moved to engine forward, and yet worked really hard to still have a big tank. The gearbox is longer, and we will run a seamless shift for the first time.
'Aerodynamics is the big focus, and a lot of the chassis layout has been designed to give better aero opportunity. The whole monocoque concept has been modified in terms of height and how it sits. Before it was quite a low car, now it's higher. We have improved the suspension, and we have some interesting developments in the pipeline that we hope will give us performance.'
In 2006 Toyota made the switch to Bridgestone tires, giving it a head start in cooperating when the Japanese company becomes the sole supplier this year.
The experience gained in adapting to new tires will benefit the team and help it get the maximum out of the tires available.
'We switched to Bridgestone tires one year ago,' says Tomita. 'In the beginning it we had some problems. I would compare it to the weather. In the winter testing and at the beginning of the season it was cloudy but in the middle of the year the clouds began to disappear and towards the end it was perfectly sunny!
'It was down and up through the year, but it was a very good learning year in 2006. So if I talk about 2007, and going to single tire supplier, we have learned a lot about tire treatment, particularly about temperature, suspension geometry and downforce.'Source - Toyota
Were someone to seek the heartbeat of Formula One it would be to the tune of cylinders beating at over 19,000 rpms, violently propelling the most technologically advanced cars in an amazing display of high pitched resonance and electrifying speed. And it was amidst a chorus of beating drums Toyota kicked off the 2007 calendar. Well and truly the official car launches marks the beginnings of a Formula One season and in Cologne, Germany on January 12th, Toyota got things roaring with its new TF107.
Though the TF107 bears a similar resemblance to the 105 and 106B that came before it, to Toyota, this car represents something entirely 'new'. And, in many ways, 'new' goes beyond whether there are any parts or designs carried over from any previous car. This year's car represents Toyota's renewed heartbeat, its renewed drive for excellence.
The TF107 from General Manager Vasselon's team stands as the team's first chassis design built specifically for the V8 powerplant. Last year's 106B, a virtual copy of the 105 chassis, incorporated a spacer between the chassis and the engine to cope with the shorter V8 while enabling the car to maintain the same wheelbase as the TF105. This kept costs down and meant more emphasis could be spent on the car's overall aero development. And with the switch to the V8, and the subsequent homologation rules now in effect, even more of a team's attention is now directed to aerodynamic packages and other devices meant to claw back lost performance.
Though the main lines of the new car obviously shares its inception in the 105 and 106B, Toyota's engineers have done their best to take what was working and combine it with ideas meant to make the car far better. In fact, these aero tweaks demonstrate the team's change from within themselves to improve upon what was a disappointing last season by their standards. And while like everything in life, some of the changes would require the 106B from last season to be placed next to this year's car to really make the differences clear. On top of that, some of the changes would require this year's car to be totally torn apart to be seen at all. However, there are those more apparent.
Among those changes not easily seen is Toyota's effort to make its V8 powerplant cozier under the hood. Also lay hidden is Toyota's new seamless shifting gearbox. Introduced last year, it was widely speculated that this new gearbox would be all the rage come 2007. And given Toyota jumping on the bandwagon when they themselves did not use it last year gives teeth to that speculation. Among the other improvements hidden in the bowels of the car, Toyota's representatives have been especially excited about its improved launch system that, last year, hampered the team. Reliability has also been one of the team's other strongly stressed focal points during this off-season as well since the team had the ability to score better last year but suffered from a fragile car.
As for the chassis and bodywork changes, they can be seen the whole car over. Starting at the nose, this year's Toyota incorporates a further refined front wing, including larger 2005 Renault-esk cascades. The lower lip of the front wing is also slightly less pronounced as a year ago. This year's car employs the zero-keel design that first showed up for Toyota on its B version of the 106. The nose also boasts only one set of nose flaps to help direct airflow around the cockpit. Last year's 106B version used two sets of these flaps, one set on the top of the nose bulkhead and another about mid-span.
Repositioning and tweaking of the suspension and its aerodynamics were among some of the other changes at the front of the car. The barge boards that help direct airflow in and around the radiators have been changed, as well as, the diffuser strakes. Contoured turning vanes, known as 'flicks' and first introduced by Honda, are bigger on the TF107 than in the past. But, the double set of wing plates above the driver's head remains.
The overall lines of the sidepods bear similarity to the 106B. However, the shape and layout of the chimneys have changed. Now, there is a much more acute angle from where the chimneys rise from the sidepod. The T-wing is again incorporated with the chimney, but this year's 107 employs a double row of sidepod rear flicks. The Toyota TF107 uses shark gills for engine cooling similar to the Renault team. Last year's 106B had an exhaust design where the pipes were physically closer to the cockpit but yet separated further apart from each other. The 107's exhaust extends further back and is pulled tighter to the engine cowling helping direct the hot exhaust gases rearward.
Another departure from previous designs includes a pillar-less rear wing. Instead of a central pillar incorporated in last year's design, this year's 107 design uses the endplates as support for the rear wing. And perhaps the most subtle and overlooked aspect of the TF107 is its higher overall ride height. Yet unfortunately, it remains to be seen whether these changes will be able to reverse the rather little bang Toyota has been able to consistently muster for its large bucks.
In the world of Formula One, very rarely are entirely brand new concepts fleshed out each and every year. There are always parts or designs carried over. And though the new 107 is an apparently brand new car, its overall outward appearance blends much of what the team knows to work with many concepts and devices the team 'believes' will help make this car an eventual first race winner. For Toyota, the TF107 marks an overall 're-thinking'. And if nothing else, it is the team's renewed desire, if not downright desperation, to win that gives a heartbeat to this year's car and makes this design entirely 'new'.By Jeremy McMullen