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Beating Ferrari is our target, say Toyota
Alan Baldwin | January 15, 2006 12:14 IST
Toyota want Ralf Schumacher to win races and shatter older brother Michael's dream of an eighth Formula One championship.
"We feel that we have to stand up to Ferrari and take them on and beat them," Toyota motorsport president John Howett told reporters at a pre-season event at the Japanese carmaker's Valenciennes factory in northern France.
"The first ambition is that we really would like to be the quickest Bridgestone [team] and ultimately we definitely want to challenge to have our first victory in this year," he added.
"We realise that we have still got to work very hard and push every area but we have a growing inner confidence that we can do that."
Toyota switched to Bridgestone, long-term tyre partner of Michael Schumacher's Ferrari team, at the end of their best year yet in 2005.
The team, with Ralf and Italian Jarno Trulli, finished fourth and would probably have pushed ailing Ferrari out of third had they not been sidelined at Indianapolis by tyre problems.
They also secured their first podium finishes and first pole positions since entering the sport in 2002.
"I don't know about lots of wins but at least one or two would be great," said Ralf, whose last victory was with Williams in 2003. "We expect wins, that is certain.
"I think beating Ferrari is very possible. We were very close to them last year...lets wait and see, but there is a chance," added the German.
"I'm not really talking about the championship at the moment, we had a few podiums last year and never really had a chance to win a race so I think talk of the championship is far too early at the moment.
Howett agreed that a title bid remained unlikely.
"The next step is victory and from there we have to see as we move towards becoming serious championship contenders," he said.
"Last year Michelin were really strong and we really have to see where we come with the tyre...if Bridgestone do deliver an outstanding tyre then we have to stand up to Ferrari and therefore fight for the championship."
"But I think there is a question at the moment on how quickly we can work with Bridgestone to recover the pace."
Michelin, who are pulling out of Formula One at the end of the year, won all but the six-car US Grand Prix fiasco last year with champions Renault and runners-up McLaren.
However the rules have changed, with the re-introduction of tyre changes expected to favour Ferrari's Schumacher in what could be the 37-year-old's final season.
While Michelin were supreme with tyres designed to last the whole race, Bridgestone dominated with Ferrari in 2004 when races were divided into sprints between pitstops.
The season starts in Bahrain on March 12.
Big-spending Toyota were the first of the 10 teams to launch their new car, testing the TF106 on the track for the first time in December.
Formula One: The Complete Coverage