Toyota will not be returning to Formula 1, saying that the pinnacle of motor racing is out of touch with its customer base. The Japanese automaker pulled out of F1 last year after seven years in the sport. Racing events that allow closer connection with the fans, such as Nascar in the US and the Nurburgring 24-hour endurance race in Germany are the new priorities, revealed Toyota’s racing program head and ex F1-team boss Tadashi Yamashina.

New president Akio Toyoda, who assumed the role in June 2009, is the main influence behind this change of thinking. Throw in the company’s worst financial showing in 70 years and the F1 pull out was inevitable. But it wasn’t the sole reason, as many believe. “It might not have been so abrupt, but it would have happened,” Yamashina said of the pull out. “President Toyoda’s stance on motor sports is geared more toward the customer. There is a big gap between Formula 1 and Toyota’s actual car users.” Calling F1 too “elitist”, Yamashina pointed out that the Nurburgring race, for instance, allowed fans to get into the pit lane, mingle with the teams and even touch the cars. In F1, you’ve got to be either rich, famous, well connected (or a combination of the above) to stroll the paddock!