In a shock announcement today, and following the recent decision to close TRD (Toyota Racing Developments), Toyota has confirmed that it will not be placing a manufacturer's entry in this year's Australian Rally Championship.
With three manufacturers' titles under its belt, Toyota says that it has left the door open for its rally team principal, National Drivers' Champion Neal Bates, and other team members, to enter the drivers' championship without works support.
Toyota has however appointed Bates as a company ambassador with a range of opportunities to represent it in the community.
Toyota?s senior executive director, Dave Buttner, said that the decision has not been taken lightly.
"Neal is a legend for Toyota and in Australian motorsport. In appointing Neal an ambassador we have indicated our desire to continue our 20 year relationship," he said.
Toyota has been the longest standing manufacturer supporter of the Australian Rally Championship in the series' 41-year history, winning the manufacturers title three times, while its drivers have won six times.
According to Toyota, Neal Bates has full use and ownership of Toyota's rally team, including its S2000 Corollas, that in 2008 became the first S2000 cars in the world to win a national rally title.
Mr Buttner said Toyota's decision had been made to enable the company to best service its employees and its customers.
"The decision was made incredibly difficult because there was emotion, enthusiasm and friendship involved It is not a reflection on the performance of Neal Bates and his team and it is important to recognise the brilliant contribution made by every team member.?
Mr Buttner went on to wish both Toyota crews the best of good fortune.