First blood to Jaguar in midfield dice

Jaguar has won the first day's battle in another of the Japanese Grand Prix's sub-plots. With Mark Webber in ninth place, they have so far shown the best pace of the midfield teams involved in the fight for fifth in the constructors' championship

First blood to Jaguar in midfield dice

"I'm pretty happy to have got ninth behind the front-runners," said Webber. "There are some quick boys out there. It's going to be difficult to keep up with them this weekend but our battle is against BAR-Honda, Sauber and Toyota. We've begun our campaign well."

Reliability is also looking good for Jaguar as the drivers completed two and a half race distances of trouble-free running during the morning test and free practice. If it comes down to a war of attrition, Jaguar could, on 2003 form, be expected to at least have the beating of BAR-Honda. With Toyota struggling, Sauber, who have Heidfeld tenth and Frentzen 12th, seem to be Jaguar's biggest threat at this early stage.

Webber's time was all the more promising because it was only fractionally more than a second off Jarno Trulli's best around a long Suzuka lap. He may yet have some hopes of getting amongst the top runners. His team-mate Justin Wilson was fifteenth, a second down on Webber. This is Wilson's last weekend to try and prove his worth to retain his seat next year.

"I am reasonably pleased," said Wilson. "Suzuka is a very difficult circuit to master but one that I am getting the hang of. Sector One is particularly tough and there is absolutely no margin for error. There is an awful lot of time to be won and lost through there.

"There is still more time left in the car, which I intend to extract tomorrow. Getting a point at the United States Grand Prix was a great feeling but it leaves you with an appetite for more."

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