Jaguar Racing’s last qualifying session of the 2002 season ended disappointingly as Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa qualified in 14th and 17th positions respectively for tomorrow’s 53-lap Japanese Grand Prix. Because of an engine failure, however, Eddie only managed to complete three out of his four flying laps. The qualifying hour was also broken into two separate sessions when, after 35 minutes, Alan McNish suffered a very big accident at the exit of the super-fast 130R corner. Thankfully, Alan walked away from the accident but it took over an hour to repair the damaged section of the protective barrier. When the session resumed, the track temperature had dropped by almost three degrees and although both Jaguar drivers improved upon their earlier lap times, the final positions make for a very tough race ahead tomorrow.
Niki Lauda – CEO and Team Principal
"We knew we were in for a tough time at this circuit given the high downforce demands it places on cars. As demonstrated at Spa and Monza, we have come a long way since the beginning of this year, especially when it comes to low downforce configurations. We are, however, exposed at places like Suzuka where maximum downforce levels are a must. Eddie could probably have ended up a place or two higher, but his qualifying session came to a premature end after an engine failure – a rarity with the Cosworth engine. It was an instantaneous failure that came with no warning whatsoever and because of this, Eddie was unable to complete his final timed lap. With three Honda-powered cars in the top ten it is going to be very hard to hold onto our sixth place position in the championship but as we have seen at Suzuka so many times, anything can happen."
Eddie Irvine Position: 14th Best time: 1:33.915 Chassis: R3-05 T-Car: R3-03
"A very disappointing end to a session that was getting better for me towards the end. The track was obviously getting faster as the session neared the end but an engine failure prevented me from taking full advantage of the last ten minutes when most people achieved their best times. Given that I was nearly half a second up coming out of 130R on my third run, it was obvious that there was a big improvement to come and it’s very disappointing to have lost the opportunity. Nonetheless, we very rarely suffer from engine problems and we’ll just have exploit our race pace tomorrow. I started from 13th on the grid last year and if it wasn’t for a fuel rig failure during the race, we were in with a chance of grabbing a point. Nothing is impossible and given the high attrition rate at this circuit, getting across the finishing line can sometimes result in reward of some kind."
Pedro de la Rosa Position: 17th Best time: 1:34.227 Chassis: R3-06
"Simply put, I suffered from a general lack of grip. The track conditions were quite good and while the balance of the car improved over each run, the outright pace wasn’t enough to make an impact higher up the order. I made a couple of mistakes during my first timed run but improved in the second. My third run was compromised by a BAR-Honda that got in the way and while my last run improved significantly, it made no difference to the overall position. Very frustrating given the front-end set-up improvements which we made over the one hour session. It will be a very difficult race tomorrow. The lack of pace during qualifying doesn’t bode well for tomorrow and I have little choice but to go out there and take some chances."
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