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  Friday, 11 October, 2002, 10:07 GMT 11:07 UK
Montoya, Villeneuve escape crashes
Jacques Villeneuve crashed at the 140mph Spoon Curve
Villeneuve's car is hauled back to the pits

Juan Pablo Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve have both escaped uninjured from high-speed crashes in practice for the Japanese Grand Prix on Friday.

The two men both expressed shock at the severity of the impacts they suffered at Suzuka, one of F1's most demanding and dangerous circuits.

Villeneuve, the 1997 world champion, lost control at the exit of the difficult Spoon Curve in Friday's first session and his BAR smashed into the barriers, tearing the front off the car.


It was a bad crash which damaged my car quite heavily - the impact was hard and I am still a bit sore
Juan Pablo Montoya

Montoya crashed in the second session at the 115mph Degner Curve, also badly damaging his car in a side-on impact.

Villeneuve's crash brought the session to a halt while marshals cleared the track of the debris that had been strewn across it from the violence of the impact.

"It was heavier than I thought," said the Canadian 1997 world champion.

"You're spinning like mad and you think you are not going fast and when you hit the wall it's like 'Oh, wow. That was faster than I thought.'"

Montoya, who was fourth fastest in his Williams despite the accident, said: "It was a bad crash which damaged my car quite heavily.

"I went on the throttle like always and I thought I was going to make the corner fine but instead I went over the sharp part of the kerb and lost the car.

Kimin Raikkonen on his way to fastest time in Friday practice at Suzuka
Raikkonen blasts past the Suzuka fun fair
"The impact was hard and I am still a bit sore."

World champion Michael Schumacher was fastest in the first session in his Ferrari with a time of one minute 36.109 seconds.

But the German did not set a flying lap in the second session after his car was halted by hydraulic problems.

And the McLarens, which had been third and fourth behind Schumacher and team-mate Rubens Barrichello in the first hour, took over at the top.

Kimi Raikkonen set the pace with a lap of 1:34.232 around the demanding track, which is regarded as one of F1's greatest challenges alongside Spa in Belgium.

Team-mate David Coulthard was second fastest, 0.498secs behind his team-mate on a track with which the Scot has never fully got to grips throughout his career.

Michael Schumacher faces the media at Suzuka
Schumacher is the hot favourite for victory
Schumacher's earlier time was still good enough for sixth fastest, underlining his status hot favourite to win on one of his favourite tracks.

Barrichello was third, with the Williams-BMWs of Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher fourth and fifth.

Eddie Irvine was an encouraging seventh fastest for Jaguar.

McLaren's pace cannot be seen as an indication that they will necessarily threaten Ferrari in Japan this weekend.

But the team are confident of a strong showing at Suzuka.

The track, with its combination of long, fast difficult curves, is a thorough test of the all-round performance of an F1 car.

That is why Ferrari - whose F2002 is the best overall car in the sport - are such strong favourites to round off their ultra-successful season with a win.

But it is also why McLaren are considered likely to challenge more strongly than usual.

Coulthard was anyway quick enough at the last race in the USA to keep the Ferraris on their toes.

And Suzuka should allow the performance of the McLaren chassis - considered as the second best in F1 - to come to the fore, while minimising the power deficit of the Mercedes engine.

  • American Formula Three driver Richard Antinucci had a test with Williams at Silverstone on Friday.

    And Formula 3000 champion Sebastien Bourdais is to be assessed by Renault this winter with a view to the Frenchman becoming their test driver in 2003.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    BBC Five Live's Peter Slater
    "An embarrassing crash for Honda on their home track"
    In-depth guide to the 2002 Formula One season

    On-track action

    News

    Race statistics

    F1 2002
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