Toyota Motor Corp. stuns the racing world with its decision to quit Formula 1 world championship racing, citing the severe economic realities of the global financial crisis.

The move will result in ¥50 billion ($552 million) in savings, the auto maker says. Toyota’s withdrawal comes just days after Tokyo-based Bridgestone Corp. announces it will quit supplying tires to the F1 circuit when its contract expires at the end of the 2010 season.

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and BMW AG previously announced their departure from F1, also citing the effect of the global economic crisis on their bottom lines.

Meantime Reuters reports French car maker Renault SA will decide by the end of the year whether to stay in Formula 1.

“You will have to be patient,” Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn is quoted as telling reporters after an emergency board meeting in Paris. “We will make an announcement on our participation in Formula 1 before the end of the year.”

While F1 is watched by millions of TV viewers worldwide, the cost of running a team in the global series is put at hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Toyota says in a statement it has viewed its participation in F1 as contributing to the prosperity of the automotive culture and has remained dedicated to competing at the pinnacle of motorsports, even in the face of the abrupt economic changes that started last year.

“However, when considering TMC's motorsports activities next year and beyond from a comprehensive mid-term viewpoint reflecting the current severe economic realities, TMC decided to withdraw from F1,” the auto maker says.

Toyota earned 13 podium and 87 point finishes over eight years in F1 with its Panasonic Toyota Racing, a full-constructor team. It never won a race and was fifth this season in the constructor championship.

The auto maker views its time in F1, in which teams put forth their best efforts to fiercely compete at racing's highest level, as “an irreplaceable experience that provided an opportunity to develop both human resources and R&D operations.”

Toyota says it will use its experience in F1 and other motor sports to move forward in developing exciting production vehicles, such as the Lexus LFA supercar and compact rear-wheel-drive sports cars.

In motorsports, it not only will continue to race in various categories, but also actively contribute to further development of motor sports by supporting grassroots races and planning events in which it is easy for people to participate, the auto maker says.

A Bridgestone statement says the company currently is focused on the need to redirect its resources towards further intensive development of innovative technologies and strategic products.

“Over the years, the company has benefited directly from its involvement in Formula 1 racing,” the tire maker says. “The lessons learned through Bridgestone’s successful participation have translated into innovations that can be applied to the design and manufacture of tires.

In addition, its collaboration with F1 has contributed to increased brand awareness and the recognition of Bridgestone as a leader in the global tire industry, the company says.

“Having achieved these goals, Bridgestone is now poised to take its technological and brand-building efforts to the next level.”