Panasonic Toyota Racing is celebrating after Ralf Schumacher took a dream pole position for the team's home grand prix at Suzuka tomorrow. After last year's typhoon that wiped out Saturday, Suzuka provided kinder weather conditions for qualifying for the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix – but only just. It was another wet day with rain washing out most of morning practice. Qualifying started on a drying line and Ralf was out at just the right time, reaping the benefits before a late downpour ensured that none of the last drivers out could match his time. Jarno Trulli was less lucky and failed to keep up his immaculate record from qualifying in 2005 when he spun off. He will start 19th on tomorrow's grid. Now Toyota will head into Sunday's race hoping to battle for a fairytale win in front of its legions of local supporters.
RALF WAY TO PARADISE
Ralf Schumacher stormed round a soaking Suzuka to take his first pole for Toyota in front of the team's home fans.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 17, Chassis TF105/09B)
First Practice Classification: 16th
No lap time
Second Practice Classification: 3rd
Lap Time: 1m50.369s (+0.233s)
Qualifying Classification: 1st
Lap Time: 1m46.106s (fastest)
"It's obviously an incredible feeling to take my first pole position for Toyota, and what better place could there be to do it than here at Suzuka, the team's home track and my own personal favourite. I'd like to thank everyone in the team for helping to make it happen – both here in Japan and back at the factory in the Cologne. Obviously the weather worked in our favour but that doesn't often happen so I'm happy to take that slice of luck this time. The lap itself was difficult because of the changing conditions and far from perfect. The track was very slippery and that meant the car was hard to handle with lots of oversteer. But it was a reasonable time and I will certainly take it because it has put me on pole! Looking at the cars around us I'm optimistic that we can fight to convert this into a great result tomorrow."
Jarno Trulli fell foul of the conditions and spun off – his only incident of an otherwise faultless year of qualifying.
Jarno Trulli (Car 16, Chassis TF105/10B)
First Practice Classification: 14th
No lap time
Second Practice Classification: 8th
Lap Time: 1m51.503s (+1.367s)
Qualifying Classification: 19th
Lap Time: No lap time
"The car has been very difficult for me to drive all weekend and I just haven't been able to get much out of it today. This morning was the first chance we had to try out the TF105B in the wet so didn't have long to work out our set-up for the afternoon. It was very difficult to drive but it had been the same in the dry yesterday, just very inconsistent for me. I know I wasn't the only one to go off at turn 9 but there was not a specific problem there – the car had also felt awkward at the previous corner. Still, the car offers a big improvement when it comes to consistency over long runs so I will hope to be able to gain ground in the race. It's not the easiest circuit for overtaking but anything can happen."
TODAY TOMORROW TOYOTA
With Ralf Schumacher on pole in Japan, the team will now push hard for more glory in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.
Mike Gascoyne – Technical Director Chassis "That was a great result and obviously a great effort both by Ralf and the whole team. It's very special to take pole position here in Suzuka in front of all our fans and everyone from TMC which gives us so much support. It's also fantastic for everyone back in Cologne who worked so hard to bring the B spec car here. There was an element of risk in that, but to have it on pole position at our home grand prix on its first outing is a tremendous achievement. We obviously got lucky to some extent with the weather, but our forecast was predicting a shower at 13.42 and that is exactly what happened. It's 50 percent of a great result for us because Jarno unfortunately made a rare mistake and spun off. He'd been quick in sector one and I'm sure he could have put it close to the front row as well. So it will be difficult for him in the race but we have a competitive car so we will work hard to get him into the points. As for Ralf, with so many of the quicker cars so far back, we have to look to capitalise and win the race tomorrow."