Japan's Recession Affects Motorsports Landscape

Sean CostelloContributor INovember 4, 2009

The current economic recession has been felt all over the world, in all walks of life, and the world of motorsports is no exception. In fact of, of all sports, motorsport has taken one of the hardest hits.

NASCAR has certainly hit rough times. NASCAR CEO, Bill France, and team owners have been trying to fight the fall of the American car industry by inducing the merger of competitive teams, staff cutbacks and teams without sponsors.

Japanese racing teams have a different approach—pull out of racing all together.

Today, Toyota announced it would be completely withdrawing from Formula One racing after the 2009 racing season.

Toyota becomes the third manufacturer to leave the sport this season alone: Honda left at the start of the season and BMW announced its withdrawal from the sport in July.

Toyota president Akio Toyoda felt he had no choice but to withdraw from Formula 1 citing Toyota's 436.9 billion Yen (4.8 billion dollar) loss as of March 2009.

"I apologise to our fans from the bottom of my heart. I made the decision myself."

He also announced they would no longer be supplying engines to other teams. "In terms of Formula One, we will make a complete withdrawal."

So where does this leave the drivers of team Toyota and their partners who use Toyota engines?

Team Williams, who uses Toyota engines, announced they would now be using Cosworth engines, a British manufacturer who had been absent from the sport for three years.

As for the drivers, Swiss-based Sauber has been given "14th place" for next season, meaning they will fill the first available team sponsorship vacancy.

With BMW's former team to be sponsored by Swiss Qadbak Investments, that leaves Toyota to be replaced by Sauber.

This comes after a strong season for Toyota. Drivers Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock, and Kamui Kobayashi are all top-20 in points standings—eighth, 10th, and 18th respectivley.

Japanese-based tire company Bridgestone also announced it would no longer host the Japanese Grand Prix at home Fuji Speedway back in July.

However, Toyota and Honda are not the only Japanese-based companies to pull their sponsorship of motorsports.

Kawasaki announced in January it's withdrawal from MotoGP, the top tier of motorcycle road racing.

Perhaps most shocking of all was late in 2008 when Subaru and Suzuki announced they were not sponsoring teams in the 2009 season of the World Rally Championship.

Subaru, who had been involved with the sport since 1980, holds three titles as a brand and three driver championships. For many, Subaru is still synonymous with rally racing.

So where does this leave the motorsports community? Does this mean that motorsports are on their way out the door?

For many it does not. It simply leaves the way paved for independent sponsors to run things for a time while the big names focus on building their core businesses.


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