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Friday, August 28, 1998 Published at 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK

Villeneuve escapes 180mph crash

Jacques Villeneuve walked away from the horrific shunt

World champion Jacques Villeneuve escaped injury after an horrific 180mph shunt at Spa-Francorchamps on Friday which stopped the opening practice session for Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.

The 27-year-old's Williams suddenly went out of control at the exit of Eau Rouge - one of the fastest and most dangerous chicanes in Formula One.

Villeneuve, whose father Gilles died during the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, could do nothing to slow himself as the rear of the car slipped away sending him careering over the gravel into the tyre barrier.

The Canadian - fortunate that the back of the car took the impact - was able to immediately jump from the cockpit though the rear was badly smashed.

Race officials quickly halted the second practice session while the debris was cleared away with Villeneuve taken off to the circuit's medical centre for a precautionary check-up.

Villeneuve, who was fourth fastest at the time, could take no further part when the session resumed around 25 minutes later and ended the day in sixth place.

But he was not the only top driver in the wars with championship leader Mika Hakkinen also crashing out, though less spectacularly, during the morning session.

Hakkinen - who leads Michael Schumacher by just seven points - quickly recovered to set the second fastest time this afternoon just 0.011 of a second adrift of Schumacher.

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