I have collected every normal Minichamps Toyota F1 release thus far, although that is now being culled back to 1:43 racecars only after I felt Minichamps have just milked it for all oits worth. I bought the showcars and presentation cars, as well as the racecars, and pitstop sets in both drivers, in both scales, and rapidly realised it was economically irresponsible to do so.
I now collect ONLY the racecars in 1:43.
However, these larger 1:18 cars retail in Australian dollars around AU$115-135. I now feel it is not worth me collecting the showcars in particular because they never turned a wheel in anger, rather being just a mobile cavs to dispaly the livery. However, the 2002 McNish showcar in 1:18 I have was limited to only 750 pieces worldwide, so while it is not a racecar at all (it used the 2001 Prost mould for these early Toyota showcars before Minichamps designed the proper Toyota mould), the exclusivity of having one of less than 1,000 worldwide is a boon. They are, like all minichamps 1:18 releases, very well made, and good detail (the 2002 Toyota TF102 racecars of McNish and Salo have, if you peer very closely, the San Mariono circuit on their steering wheels, indicating the car as modelled was taken from that GP).
And my 1:43 cars -
As for Toyota's progress or lack thereof - don't get me started. I am an avid supporter of Toyoa's motorsport activities, and was a particular supporter of their World Rally Assault, so their lack of F1 progress given they are completing their 3rd full season is mystifying from a distance, but plain to see when you have followed and traced their evolution from 2001 and the TF101 test car to today's TF104b.
I think Toyota are now just realising that they cannot continue throwing money at F1 assuming that it will 'sort itself out' or that money alone does the job. In F1 money means alot, but they are not using it smartly thus far. They have state of the art - perhaps the best - facilities in F1 today with their purpose-built factory in Cologne; they have access to the French Circuit Paul Ricard almost solely; they have some very intelligent and dedicated engineers and workers, many who were formerly employed by Toyota Team Europe (TTE) in the WRC and Le Mans campaigns, but they are only now realising that stability of the core and key personnel makes the difference. Facilities and testing offer the best possible start for success, but a couple of vital ingredients are missing. Poaching Gascoyne from Renault was a coup, but the instability in the driver positions (they are under constant fear of being sacked or replaced for a poor showing) means that they can never truly be comfortable. Toyota bosses also want to fast-track everything, and when it doesn't work immediately, they chuck it to try something else. The Toyota bosses in Tokyo are impatient for success and demand results - and with the funds they have injected, rightly so I believe - but they are also meddling far too much in the affairs of the Cologne operation by not letting the F1 team do what it has to do.
Salo was sacked with a year on his contract still to serve, because it was felt he did not have the requisite team attitude, and made his disappointment with the lack of TF102 development be known (Toyota knew early that the 2002 car was aerodynamically and chassis-wise, a dog). This may or may not have been a correct decision, but Da Matta for instance was sacked (rumour has it), because he too was disappointed with the 2004 car's performance (or lack of) in comparison with the rest of the grid. Insiders were made aware of his views and it was felt releasing him from the race drive would be beneficial for the team. Unfortunately, Toyota have shown the same inclination by letting Panis go a race early to push Trulli into the race seat this season, instead of letting Trulli run with the testing duties, feeling and knowing the team, and playing an important role in developing a brand new Gascoyne design (with whom he worked when they were both at Renault). Trulli should have been left to work with the team to start testing the new car as soon as it was finished, not throwing him into Zonta's, and now Panis' place instead, although I do understand their reasoning in wanting him to try their current car to assist them identify problems and solutions for next year. This however could have been done by Trulli in testing rather than racing.
Disaffection and petulence is not tolerated at Toyota, and to an extent, I believe that should be so, but not towing the company line in all facets at all times carries the fear of dismissal, even when that frustration is justified. That sort of climate of fear is singularly unhelpful to building a strong F1 team. Ferrari have proved stability of core personnel to be the key to success. Not only that, but they have assembled the most talented automotive designers and engineers in the business to partner the greatest driver in the most famous racing team. It is a potent combination. As long as Schumacher, Byrne, Brawn, Todt and Montizemolo stay together, the Scuderia can expect to be at the top or very near it. Toyota needs the same combination of stability and talent too. Gascoyne as I have said, is a genius. Watch out for his car next year - the TF105 should be a marked improvement from the TF104 and TF104b incarnations. Trulli and Ralf bring proven racewinning experience, and the Toyoyta engine has always been famed for its big horsepower. The ingredients are coming together now. I think 2006 will be the year when Toyota finally prove what they are capable of.
Despite all of this, I live and breath their progress and results, and am desperate for the day I can finally celebrate their first podium, then their first win. It will happen in time. It's just a matter of when.
Sorry to digress from strictly diecast talk, but Toyota's progress and eventual success is something I feel VERY strongly about. I just wish they would employ me in some capacity because I honestly feel I could assist that to happen in a strategic sense at least. I don't think that will happen now after my criticisms of some of their operations however, especially if anyone from Toyota reads this post....
Thankyou for reading, and I will now step down from my soap box after delivering my :mine