Toyota today confirmed they are pulling out of Formula One with immediate effect for financial reasons.
The announcement was made at a media conference in Tokyo by Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda.
The world’s largest car maker is now the third major manufacturer to withdraw from F1 in the space of 11 months after Honda and BMW.
Toyota’s departure continues the exodus of Japanese companies from motor sport as Subaru and Suzuki withdrew from the World Rally Championship prior to this season.
In motorbikes, Kawasaki pulled out of MotoGP, and on Monday tyre manufacturer Bridgestone announced they will not be renewing their supply contract in F1 after next season.
A statement read: "Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announces it plans to withdraw from the FIA Formula One World Championship at the end of the 2009 season.
“TMC, which had viewed its participation in F1 as contributing to the prosperity of automotive culture, remained dedicated to competing at the pinnacle of motor sports, even in the face of the abrupt economic changes that started last year.
“However, when considering TMC’s motor-sports activities next year and beyond from a comprehensive mid-term viewpoint reflecting the current severe economic realities, TMC decided to withdraw from F1.
“TMC leaves F1 having compiled 13 podium and 87 point finishes over eight challenging seasons since 2002 with Panasonic Toyota Racing, a full-constructor team.
“It views its time in F1 – in which teams put forth their best efforts to fiercely compete at racing’s highest level – as an irreplaceable experience that provided an opportunity to develop both human resources and its R&D operations.
“TMC expresses its deepest appreciation to its F1 fans and others for their warm support.
“TMC also wants to express its heartfelt gratitude to all Panasonic Toyota Racing drivers to date, and to all Toyota Motorsport employees who have helped make the team’s achievements possible.
“TMC intends to do its best to find a solution for those parties who will be affected by any inconvenience this decision may cause.
“Drawing on its experience in F1 and other motor sports, TMC intends to move forward in developing exciting production vehicles, such as the Lexus ’LFA’ supercar and compact rear-wheel-drive sports cars.
“In motor sports, it will not only race in various categories, but will also actively contribute to further development of motor sports by supporting grassroots races and planning events in which it is easy for people to participate.”
Speculation surrounding Toyota's future was rife throughout the year, in particular after the parent company announced the worst financial losses in its history in March.
Further significant losses are expected to be revealed tomorrow, and this has forced Toyoda, grandson of the company’s founder, and his board of directors to act.
In July, and due to the global financial crisis, Toyota-owned Fuji International Speedway confirmed they would not host the Japanese Grand Prix next year.
However, Toyota signed a new Concorde Agreement with motor sport’s governing body, the FIA, over the summer, tying them to Formula One through to 2012. It appeared at that stage any doubts as to their future had been erased.
Toyota’s departure does at least open the door for Sauber to take up the now vacant 13th position on the grid.
After BMW confirmed their own withdrawal from the sport at the end of July, with their final race the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, it left Sauber fighting for survival.
They were eventually taken over by Qadbak Investments Ltd in mid-September, just hours after Lotus were awarded the 13th slot.
The FIA agreed to the possibility of 14 teams competing in F1 next season on the proviso of there being unanimous agreement from all the other marques, which was not forthcoming.
It left Sauber playing an anxious waiting game these past few weeks, one that is finally over in the wake of Toyota’s exit.
Following a strong start to the season, Toyota went on to finish fifth in this year’s constructors’ championship.
However, since their arrival in F1 in 2002 they failed to win a grand prix in 140 attempts, with the team’s best result the back-to-back second places by Jarno Trulli in Malaysia and Bahrain in 2005.
It leaves drivers Trulli, Timo Glock and Kamui Kobayashi in limbo, although it was expected neither the veteran Italian nor the German would be re-signed.
Toyota’s decision is particularly hard on Kobayashi who had driven superbly in the final two races in the absence of the injured Glock.
That led to Toyota Motorsport boss John Howett confirming in Abu Dhabi on Sunday the Japanese was “70 to 80% certain” of being given a contract for next year.
Just three manufacturers now remain in F1 – Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Renault - with the focus likely to switch to the latter in light of their previously precarious circumstances.