The works Toyota entry would have been on next year's Formula One grid had it not been for an unexpected rule change, claim team representatives.

Having confirmed its intention to join the grand prix circus with a radical V12 engine in 2001 - and paid the necessary deposits to the FIA to 'buy' the vacant twelfth entry - Toyota was shocked to hear that the governing body intended to impose a restriction limiting engines to just ten cylinders.

The decision has caused further delays in the team's programme as a new powerplant is designed and tested, and cost the Japanese company in the region of ?8million as a forfeit for not competing in 2001. No confirmation has been received on the progress of Toyota's V10, although the team insists that it will be ready to start the 2002 campaign.

''We find it hard not to blame the FIA,'' complained spokesman Kevin Perlmutter, ''and I would be very surprised to find that the team knew anything about the rule change before it paid its entry. There certainly would have been no work on a V12 if it had - this ruling has changed both our plans and our focus.''

Toyota already has one driver standing by to test the new car/engine combination, having announced that Le Mans winner Allan McNish would be entrusted with the initial shakedown runs, and the Scot could soon be paired with Sauber's Mika Salo, if paddock rumour is true. Neither the Finn, nor either team interested in his services, has made any announcement on the situation, however.



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