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U.S. GRAND PRIX Trulli salvages Toyota's weekend



Published: Sat, June 18, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Italian driver captured Saturday's pole.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Jarno Trulli salvaged what was shaping up to be a miserable weekend for the Toyota team by winning the pole Saturday for the United States Grand Prix.

Trulli had a time of 1 minute, 10.625 seconds around the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to earn the first pole for Toyota. Earlier Saturday, teammate Ralf Schumacher wasn't medically cleared to race after a hard accident during a practice session.

"It has been a difficult time for everybody here," Trulli said. "For sure it is a mixed emotion weekend."

Bright spot

But the Italian driver gave Toyota something to briefly cheer about in its breakthrough fourth season in Formula One. Trulli, in his first season with the team, gave Toyota its previous best qualifying effort with a pair of seconds to open the season.

He finally earned his first pole of the season -- third career -- and first since the Belgium Grand Prix in 2004.

Toyota fell behind after Schumacher and test driver Ricardo Zonta both crashed in Friday's practice sessions. Both accidents were attributed to tire failure, leaving Michelin officials scrambling to figure out what was wrong with its tires.

Michelin officials said Saturday they were trying to ship a fresh batch from its France warehouse to replace the rubber already on site in what the supplier called a safety precaution.

But other drivers using Michelin tires said they had no problem with their supply and thought Toyota's troubles may have stemmed from aggressive setups.

No fear

Either way, Trulli showed no fear on his tires, speeding around the 13-turn course and taking his Toyota to the top.

He then had to hold off late runs by Kimi Raikkonen and the Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello to keep the top starting spot.

Raikkonen, the final driver to qualify and winner last weekend of the Canadian Grand Prix, almost snatched the pole away but finished second in a McLaren-Mercedes with a time of 1:10.694.

"Yes I am happy," Raikkonen said. "Of course, I would rather be in first place."

Jenson Button, the polesitter last weekend in the Canadian Grand Prix, qualified his BAR-Honda third.

Giancarlo Fisichella was fourth in a Renault, followed by Michael Schumacher, the two-time defending race winner. World championship points leader Fernando Alonso was sixth in a Renault.

Zonta, the replacement driver for Ralf Schumacher, wound up 13th.

"Yesterday's events mean this is not an ideal situation for the whole team, and I am especially sorry for Ralf," said Zonta, who was the first driver to attempt to qualify. "Of course, I'm glad to be back with a chance to race the car."

Not seriously injured

Schumacher wasn't seriously injured when his car spun coming out of the final turn and backed into a part of wall protected by the energy-absorbing SAFER Barrier.

The German driver appeared to be in pain when he climbed from the car, but medical personnel checked and released him. He later went to a local hospital to have his eye examined after complaining of an irritation.

When he arrived at the track Saturday, an FIA medical delegate ruled that it would be unsafe for Schumacher to race because of the dangers another hard impact could cause. Schumacher sustained a serious concussion and two broken vertebrae in a similar accident here last season.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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