Toyota has paid tribute to departing team manager Richard Cregan ahead of his final Grand Prix before leaving to take up a new post with Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management.
The 47-year-old has been part of the Toyota set-up since 1984 when he joined the company as a mechanic on its programme in the World Rally Championship. From there, he went on to become test team foreman, workshop manager and operations manager and was operations manager for the Le Mans 24 Hours project in 1998 and 1999 – the latter marking the team's last assault on the La Sarthe classic.
Cregan then assisted the late Ove Andersson in setting up Toyota's new Formula One team and has been involved with the team through 120 events heading into this afternoon's 2008 season finale at Interlagos.
Ahead of the race, Cregan was joined in the pitlane in Brazil by the entire Toyota race team where chairman and team principal Tadashi Yamashina presented the Irishman with a personalised Toyota Racing race suit.
"This has been a weekend of very mixed emotions because on the one hand I am excited by the future but on the other I am sad to be leaving my friends at Toyota,” Cregan reflected. "I have had a fantastic time with this team; we have had highs and lows but we have stuck together throughout and I am very proud of what has been achieved. Even though I will not be with Toyota after November, I will always be a team member in my heart.
"I was in Melbourne for Toyota's first Grand Prix, which was a very special event for us and to score a point, after so much hard work just to get there, was fantastic. The 2005 season was my most memorable because we were very successful but this year it was a good feeling to be back on the podium; that is where this team belongs.
"This is a great team of people and I believe there is no better in the pit lane. I know the results will come and I could wish for nothing better than a Toyota victory in the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. That would be a dream come true."
Yamashina added that Cregan could be proud of his achievements during a long career with the team and said he was sure he would be a success in his new role.
"We are very sad that Richard is leaving the team but we understand his reasons and we wish him the very best of luck in Abu Dhabi; I am sure he will make the first Grand Prix there a truly memorable event,” he said. "He can be very proud of his numerous achievements at Toyota, which include providing a positive working environment at the factory and at the track as well as implementing the Toyota Way in Formula 1, where we have achieved significant progress in areas such as pit stops and car operations.
"I look forward to seeing Richard again in Abu Dhabi when I hope we can try out the new podium facilities!"