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Trulli to race in Japan and Brazil 01 Oct 2004

Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota talks to the media. Formula 1 Testing, Silverstone, 16 September 2004. World © Capilitan/Sutton

Toyota have announced that Jarno Trulli will drive for the team in the last two races of the 2004 season in Japan and Brazil.

At Suzuka Trulli will race alongside Olivier Panis, who has already signed a contract to be the team's third driver next season. After the Japan race, Panis will hand over to team mate Ricardo Zonta, allowing him to race at his home Grand Prix in Brazil. Ryan Briscoe will retain his role as third driver at both events.

Trulli has already completed two tests with Toyota following his premature departure from Renault, but was not expected to race for the team until 2005, when he will partner Ralf Schumacher at the Japanese squad.

"It will be nice for me to be back in Japan because I have a lot of Japanese supporters and I'm sure they will give me a huge welcome,” said the Italian. “I am thankful to Olivier and Ricardo for making this possible. The Japanese Grand Prix weekend will help me put together a general impression of how things work at Toyota. Overall the experience will give me a head start with some input to the way I have to work over the winter."

Explaining the move, the Toyota’s team principal Tsutomu Tomita said: “Having the opportunity to bring Jarno into the race team for Japan and Brazil will be highly beneficial, as it will allow us to develop a solid working relationship with him in race conditions in anticipation of the 2005 season.

“We have come to a mutual agreement with Olivier to leave his seat as a race driver one race earlier than planned so we can already begin to actively work on our driver line-up for next year. Likewise we are sorry that we can not give Ricardo the chance to race in Japan. We thank both Olivier and Ricardo for showing great sportsmanship in this situation."

Toyota will be hoping that Trulli’s presence will boost the team as they bid to move ahead of Jaguar and seize seventh place in the constructors’ championship. They currently have nine points to their rivals’ 10.

Trulli, who was replaced at Renault by Jacques Villeneuve for the final three races of the season, lies joint fifth in the drivers’ championship, level on 46 points with Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya.