2009 Toyota TF109 Formula One car crossing the auction block

Collectors who find limited-edition hypercars with a multi-million-dollar price tag a little bit too stodgy will soon have a rare opportunity to add a real Formula One car to their fleet. Toyota donated the first example of the last car it built to compete in the series to a charity auction whose proceeds will go towards COVID-19 relief.

Wearing chassis number 01, this TF109 participated in a battery of tests leading up to the 2009 Formula One season. It was driven by several professional pilots, including Henkie Waldschmidt, Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock, but it never lined up on the starting grid of a race. Instead of stuffing it in a dimly-lit museum, Toyota passed the TF109 to Pirelli who used it as a high-speed test mule for tires. It was stripped of its red and white livery and put in the hands of well-known pilots (including Romain Grosjean) until it finally retired in 2011 after covering about 30,000 kilometers (approximately 19,000 miles), which is enormous for a Formula One car.

There’s little evidence chassis number 01 has moved much since 2011. It’s being sold as a complete car and it’s still fitted with its 2.4-liter V8 engine, but we don’t know whether or not it runs. That’s likely of little interest to its future owner; starting a Formula One car is a dauntingly complicated task, and maintaining it requires a full team of technicians. It’s more likely to become a rolling work of art than to start a second racing career.

It’s difficult to put a value on a Formula One car. It’s not like you can browse Bring a Trailer until you have an accurate idea of how the last 27 examples sold have performed. RM Sotheby’s hasn’t provided a pre-auction estimate, but we wouldn’t be surprised if bidding crosses the seven-digit mark, especially considering the proceeds from the sale will be donated to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

RM’s Race Against Covid auction will take place online — where else? — between June 15 and 22. Eight lots have been detailed as of writing, including the aforementioned TF109 plus a racing suit worn by Sebastian Vettel in 2019, a bundle of equipment signed by top drivers like Lewis Hamilton, and a day in Ferrari’s racing simulator. RM previously announced the auction will include over 60 lots, so there may be other cars up for grabs.

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