Exclusive: Vasselon to Join Toyota

Fresh for scoring their maiden podium finish in the Malaysian Grand Prix, Toyota are set to pull-off a major technical coup early next month after securing the services of highly-rated engineer Pascal Vasselon from Michelin, Autosport-Atlas can reveal

Exclusive: Vasselon to Join Toyota

Toyota delivered one of the biggest surprises of the season so far with Jarno Trulli's brilliant run to second place in the Malaysian Grand Prix and, with technical director Mike Gascoyne keen to make further improvements during the rest of the season, sources have revealed that terms have been agreed for Vasselon to join the outfit.

Although Vasselon's exact job title at Toyota is not known yet, it is understood that he will take a chief role within the R&D department to help improve the now competitive TF105 chassis - especially in the way it interacts with the tyres.

Vasselon has spent his most recent career with Michelin, carving himself a highly-respected reputation with the French tyre manufacturer's F1 teams, but he also has extensive knowledge of suspension developments and vehicle dynamics - something that Toyota will be keen to tap.

The Frenchman's decision to join Toyota came after Michelin's controversial decision to move him away from motorsport activities at the end of last year. In a management reshuffle, Michelin handed responsibility for the F1 activities to engineers Patrick Cohen and Nick Shorrock.

Vasselon himself had been due to be moved across to working on off-road tyres in the United States.

Michelin's decision on Vasselon stirred up some concern from several of the company's leading teams, however, with sources suggesting that McLaren, Williams and Toyota all canvassed for Vasselon to be re-instated to his previous role.

When that possibility was ruled out, it is believed that several teams made personal appeals to try and lure Vasselon to join them on an exclusive basis - with Toyota appearing to have won the fight.

Michelin's motorsport boss Pierre Dupasquier admitted at this year's Australian Grand Prix that there was a chance Vasselon could return to F1 rather than accept his job offer in the United States.

"We don't know yet what Pascal will do," he said. "He has been assigned a job in the United States and he is preparing for that. I know he loves Formula One and the sport as well. It is up to him. I have no idea what will happen."

With the fight at the front of the field looking incredibly close this year between several Michelin runners, any extra knowledge and input that Vasselon can apply to Toyota to help the interaction between car and tyres will be very valuable.

It is understood that Vasselon will join the team on April 4, with his first race being the San Marino Grand Prix, although an official announcement has not been made yet.

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