Despite the obvious disappointment of last season, confidence still ruled the auditorium as Panasonic Toyota Racing took the wraps off its new Formula One challenger in front, not only of the worldwide media, but also thousands of fans live on the internet.

The TF108 represents a ground-up overhaul of previous ideas, and Toyota clearly expects the car to challenge at the front next season, as was proved in the speeches delivered by key figures from the team's management, who joined drivers Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock and Kamui Kobayashi on stage in Cologne.

Wind tunnel tests and simulations have suggested that the TF108 - complete with its longer wheelbase, major aerodynamic upgrade, revised suspension and new gearbox - will be a marked improvement on its predecessor, and president John Howett did not hold back when he echoed the belief that Toyota can move closer to its long-term aim of winning races and fighting for the world championship.

"We look in good shape for 2008, there is no question about that," Howett said, "But the hard work continues all the time. We started the TF108 in earnest more or less on the day the TF107 hit the track and the development has been remorseless, which it has to be because of the competitive pressure of F1.

"The key issue has been to identify the major elements which contribute to performance enhancement and put more resources into those areas. We have got a much better understanding of specific areas, such as aerodynamics, which contribute more to performance and, therefore, we are utilising our resources in developing 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."

Howett was quick to play down just how bad many outsiders assumed 2007 had been, the team only managing 13 points between Trulli and Ralf Schumacher in 17 races.

"My feeling is that, sometimes, the car has been more competitive than the results show," he insisted, "Our performance has been variable and one issue has been the start because, if you don't finish the first lap as you qualified, you tend to race in that position. The car also has to be quicker in relative terms to our competitors and we need to ensure we have no reliability issues, but clearly one of the big priorities for 2008 is to improve the start performance.

"Of course, we have to perform significantly better than in 2007. As a team our ultimate objective is to win, that is the only reason we exist. I believe we have the hardware, we have the resources - as all the top teams do - so we simply have to keep pushing to improve the total package and the performance and results will come.

"We have a workforce here which is very loyal. They work extremely hard and, whenever we ask for more, they deliver even more. In the end, anybody working in F1 should appreciate the opportunity to work in this sport.

"Historically, the winning teams are those which have been in place a long time, that is quite clear. It tends to take time to get the right people in the right place and all acting together as a unit, so building any organisation does take a degree of time. But we do not use this as an excuse. We have a highly motivated, hungry team. I don't think we have grown, we have simply reinforced the existing team. Our total capacity is roughly the same as last year, but we have continued to reinforce and improve facilities and know-how. Great results will be the icing on the cake, but the challenge and the disappointments in F1 make the pleasure of success even greater."

 

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