Toyota boss says first win the hardest

Mindful of a bold prediction which fell flat last year, Toyota's Formula One boss declared on Monday that a breakthrough victory would lead to many more

Toyota boss says first win the hardest

Toyota began 2007 apologising for not delivering a maiden victory in their fifth season in F1 but Tsutomu Tomita said that breaking their duck was the key.

"The first one is the hardest," Tomita told Reuters before this weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix. "If we win one I think the tide will turn and we'll go from strength to strength."

Toyota have spent in excess of one billion dollars in five years in Formula One but took a step backwards last season when they finished sixth in championship with just 35 points.

It was a major setback for the Japanese car giant after an impressive showing in 2005 when they were fourth with 88 points.

"We're competing against teams who have been in Formula One for 15 or 20 years and have won championships," Tomita said in an interview on the sidelines of Tokyo news conference.

"Not having won a title is obviously a big weak point for us but once you win one you can relax a bit. It's a big season for us."

German Ralf Schumacher produced Toyota's only podium finish of 2006 with a third place in Melbourne - little to shout about after Italian Jarno Trulli's two runner-up finishes in 2005.

However, Tomita gave both drivers a resounding vote of confidence ahead of the new season.

"They are both very mature drivers," he said. "They have a lot of pride. If they are 100 percent it will definitely lead to good results. They're proven winners and a great fit for us."

Toyota are celebrating their 50th year in motorsport, although Tomita said there was no added pressure to notch a first F1 victory in 2007.

"There is always pressure," he shrugged. "There is pressure on all the teams. We don't get side-tracked by what people on the outside say. We just focus on the job and on making progress."

Tomita added: "Rather than ask why we haven't won a race after five years you could say it's remarkable that we have come this far in such a short space of time."

Nevertheless, Toyota Motor Corporation president Katsuaki Watanabe gave a brutally frank assessment of the 2006 Formula One campaign and called for vast improvements.

"Last year we did not see the results we wanted," Watanabe told reporters. "I want to see results this year. I don't want to be saying the same thing next year."

Tomita agreed but said there were reasons for optimism with the new TF107 car and a home Grand Prix at Toyota-owned Fuji Speedway to look forward to.

Toyota are the only one of the 11 teams in Formula One to start the season with the same two drivers, the same engine and same tyre partner, Bridgestone.

"Don't forget in terms of speed alone we were probably the second quickest after Ferrari over the second half of last year," said Tomita.

"We expect good things this year and it would be a dream to win at Fuji. But it's getting that first win that's the difficult part."

"People ask me what we need to do to win a race," he added with a mock grimace. "I'd like to ask them the same question!"

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