Minardi To Sue Toyota

European Minardi team owner Paul Stoddart confirmed Tuesday his team will take legal action against Toyota for hiring technical director Gustav Brunner away to lead its fledgling Formula One program.

Brunner, who joined Minardi in 1998, was hired as Toyota’s chief designer on Monday and is scheduled to start immediately.

"We are obviously disappointed at this news," Stoddart said. "Gustav has been a trusted and highly regarded member of staff, and for him to act in this way is totally incomprehensible to us.

"We are surprised and saddened that a company of Toyota's standing would seek to employ Mr. Brunner, who has an irrevocable contract with Minardi until January 1, 2003. As such, European Minardi will be pursuing all of its options in law against both Mr. Brunner and Toyota."

Upon his hiring, however, Brunner said he was excited to join Toyota.

"I feel a little pain leaving my existing team, but this is an opportunity not to be missed. To join Toyota from almost the start of their project is fantastic,” Brunner said. "From what I have seen so far, TMG has a good team of people and all the facilities to really push forward the positive development. I'm looking forward to what will be a busy, but very exciting time ahead.”

Deputy Technical Director Gabriele Tredozi will assume control of the day-to-day operation at Minardi.

Meanwhile, Stoddart said the team is close to securing an engine deal that will make the team more competitive he said.

Currently the team’s engines lack the power produced by teams such as Ferrari or McLaren by about 50 horsepower, but Minardi still manages to qualify around 2-3 seconds off the pace.

"I can say we are talking to a number of engine manufacturers who are currently on the Grand Prix grid. I hope to make an announcement in the next couple of races."

Minardi's young driver, Fernando Alonso, is on loan from Benetton's Flavio Briatore and has a get-out clause attached to his contract that would allow him to leave should Minardi fail to provide him with a suitable engine.

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