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Japanese GP news reports

SUZUKA, Japan, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Michael Schumacher brought his challenge for the world drivers' championship back to life on Sunday with an unexpected and breathtaking victory for Ferrari in the Japanese Grand Prix. The ...

SUZUKA, Japan, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Michael Schumacher brought his challenge for the world drivers' championship back to life on Sunday with an unexpected and breathtaking victory for Ferrari in the Japanese Grand Prix. The 28-year-old German, driving with measured aplomb, fin- ished the 53-lap race 1.3 seconds ahead of his compatriot Heinz- Harald Frentzen who, by claiming six points for second place, ensured his Williams team claimed a record ninth constructors' championship. Frentzen's team-mate Jacques Villeneuve of Canada, who was disqualified on Saturday after ignoring a yellow caution flag, but then reinstated to race under appeal, finished fifth behind third-placed Briton Eddie Irvine, in the second Ferrari and Mika Hakkinen of Finland in a McLaren. Frenchman Jean Alesi in a Benetton was sixth. Villeneuve's effort brought him two points and enabled him to retain a provisional one-point lead in the title race, subject to the outcome of his appeal against the stewards' decision to exclude him from the event. If his appeal fails, as expected, then Schumacher will have regained the lead in the drivers' title race and go to the final event of the season as favourite to land his third title. "That is what I hope," said Schumacher. "But we have to wait and see what happens. This has been one of the most satisfying victories I can remember for some time. We had a plan and it worked perfectly, but the plan was mostly about reacting properly to what we expected Villeneuve to do. "We thought he would not try anything dangerous or unsport- ing, because he is not that kind of person, but that he might try to slow everyone down in front of me. He tried to hold me up, but Eddie (Irvine) did a brilliant job and after a while I think he gave it up. "I have to say that Eddie helped me win this race and I think he showed all the people who have been asking questions about him that he is a really top driver. If he had not done what he did for the team, he might have won." For Ferrari it was a magnificent victory built on perfect tactics. Irvine pulled off two thrilling passing moves to over- take Hakkinen and Schumacher and leap from fourth to second on lap two and then into the lead on the third lap when he swept round Villeneuve. Once he had built up a lead and regained it after the first round of pit-stops, Irvine obeyed team orders perfectly by slow- ing down, to allow Schumacher - who had passed Villeneuve in the pit-stops - to move up from second to take control, while he blocked Villeneuve's threat. "It was great," said Irvine. "I really enjoyed that bit. But I was sitting there waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for a message to tell me what to do next and I felt I was waiting for a long time." Villeneuve led for four laps following Irvine's first pit- stop, but never again, and appeared to lose heart when he was blocked by Irvine in Ferrari's highly-successful tactical move. Schumacher led comfortably, only conceding the front-running job when Frentzen led through the pit-stops for four laps, and was a comfortable winner on a day of warm sunshine and blue Japanese skies. Frentzen made a powerful bid to close on Schumacher in the final laps, but was unable to cut into the gap sufficiently to be a threat as the double world champion drove to 27th the victory of his career and his fifth this year. The provisional outcome of the race, pending the result of Williams' appeal against Villeneuve's exclusion, was that Wil- liams retained their constructors' crown with 120 points, includ- ing two for Villeneuve's fifth place, or 118 without them, while Ferrari have 100. With only one race remaining, the European Grand Prix at Jerez in Spain in two weeks time, that is an unbeatable lead. In the drivers' standings, Schumacher now has 78 and Ville- neuve 79 or 77 depending on the outcome of his appeal. The driv- ers' title race will therefore be settled in Jerez on October 26 - if both drivers are in the event and the outcome has not been settled in advance by the court of appeal of the sport's ruling body, the International Motoring Federation.

SUZUKA, Japan, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Michael Schumacher ensured the world drivers' championship will go to a thrilling winner- takes-all finish in Spain later this month by triumphing in the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday. The 28-year-old German, driving with measured aplomb and a cool tactical mind, finished the 53-lap race 1.3 seconds ahead of his compatriot Heinz-Harald Frentzen who, by gaining six points for second place, ensured his Williams team won a record ninth constructors' championship. Schumacher now has only to beat his sole title rival Canadi- an Jacques Villeneuve in the final race of the season, the Euro- pean Grand Prix in Jerez in two weeks' time, to win his third world title in four years. He was champion in 1994 and 1995 with Benetton. Villeneuve, who was disqualified on Saturday after ignoring a yellow caution flag but was reinstated to race under appeal, finished fifth behind third-placed Briton Eddie Irvine, in the second Ferrari and Mika Hakkinen of Finland in a McLaren. French- man Jean Alesi in a Benetton was sixth. For Ferrari it was a magnificent victory built on perfect tactics. Irvine pulled off two thrilling passing moves to over- take Hakkinen and Schumacher and leap from fourth to second on lap two and then into the lead on the third lap when he swept round Villeneuve. Once he had built up a lead and regained it after the first round of pit-stops, Irvine obeyed team orders by slowing down to allow Schumacher - who had passed Villeneuve in the pit-stops - to move up from second and take control, while Irvine blocked Villeneuve's threat. Schumacher said: "It is a long time since I had so much satisfaction from a win, mainly because it brings me closer to the championship. We knew Jacques (Villeneuve) would try and make my life difficult and try to get other cars to pass me - and he did. "Initially, I made a good start but then I had too much wheelspin. Jacques did brake a bit harder than usual a few times and I nearly touched him. Before the race, Eddie told me he might try and pass me at that point and it was quite funny when it happened. "It was a very good manoeuvre. But after the pit stops when Jacques came out of the pits he moved right across but I managed to dive inside him. Thanks to Eddie, we were in a good situation and he took care when he let me pass. It is thanks to him that I have this victory. "Now, in Jerez, the situation will be open. Whoever is in front will be the champion. I am looking forward to it. I hope to perform in the same way and to win the championship." Frentzen's fine effort did little to soothe the brows of his Williams team as they were still seething at the prospect of seeing Villenevue's challenge for the drivers' championship wrecked by a threatened one-race ban against which they lodged notice of appeal on Saturday. Villeneuve's effort brought him two points and enabled him to retain a provisional one-point lead in the title race, subject to the outcome of his appeal against the stewards' decision to exclude him from the event. If his appeal fails, as expected, then Schumacher will have regained the lead in the drivers' title race and will go into the final race as favourite. Villeneuve was disappointed but not despondent, after the race. "The start went well for me and then it was just a question of racing knowing that there is a good chance the result will be void in a week's time - but I just got on with it. I was racing against Michael and my only objective was to try and slow him but I was surprised that nobody tried to overtake him. "Then we lost the battle in the pitstops. We came out a little ahead of him but he was on the track and his momentum carried him past me. Then, of course, Irvine let him go by and into the lead and the rest of the race was very difficult and very frustrating for me." Team boss Frank Williams was unemotional when asked about winning the constructors' title for a record ninth time - an achievement which has also enabled engine suppliers Renault to play a part in six successive title wins. "It is another number and I am very satisfied and happy for everyone involved," Wil- liams said.

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