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Narain 19th in first two practice sessions

March 18, 2005 16:36 IST

India's Narain Karthikeyan finished 19th in the two free practice sessions at the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang on Friday.

As the track temperatures rose to 55 degrees Celsius, the 28-year-old Jordan-Honda driver clocked 1 minute, 40.375 seconds in the morning and improved to 1:38.855 in the afternoon session ahead of the season's second Grand Prix on Sunday.

Overall, the test drivers dominated the morning session with the three fastest times being set by Ricardo Zonta of Toyota, Pedro de la Ross of McLaren and Vitantonio Liuzzi of Red Bull.

But in the second free practice, Sauber's Felipe Massa set the pace while McLaren pair Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen both came inside the top four at the 5.543-km Sepang circuit.

Defending champion Michael Schumacher, who crashed out of the Australian GP in Albert Park, Melbourne, after being drenched in the qualifying session the previous afternoon, came in 16th in practice. The seven-time world champion skidded off at turn 9 on his last run but regained control to finish the lap.

Karthikeyan, who finished 15th on his debut, completed the first practice behind teammates Tiago Monteiro and Robert Doornbos but accelerated for a better finish in the second session.

Though Team Jordan seemed satisfied with the overall performance of their three drivers, Karthikeyan admitted that Sepang was a difficult circuit for new comers.

"Sepang International Circuit is quite difficult to learn because it is very flowing and dusty and for a rookie it is quite tricky to find the correct line," Karthikeyan said.

"But I have to go with what I have and try to improve my times tomorrow."

His team was happy with the "positive" start to the Grand Prix weekend. Team personnel spent their time adjusting the Jordan EJ15 chasis for the requirements of the demanding course and were pleased with the lap times made by the drivers.

Officials said the day's technical programme ran smoothly and that the team was looking forward to making further useful progress tomorrow.

"Today was another productive day with the three cars running very well. We have learnt a lot about the car and we are looking forward to a good weekend," Jordan Sporting Director Trevor Carlin said.

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