Motor Racing: Barrichello escapes accident at 160mph: Brazilian breaks nose and cracks ribs in high-speed crash but Williams show their power with Senna on provisional pole

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RUBENS BARRICHELLO, the latest of the outstanding Brazilian drivers to enter the Formula One arena, was the luckiest of the lucky on a harrowing first practice day for tomorrow's San Marino Grand Prix here.

Barrichello was recovering in hospital last night, relatively unscathed after his Jordan-Hart was launched off a kerb at 160mph, smashed into fencing and went into a barrel roll.

He lost consciousness and the work of the medical crew was hampered when he swallowed blood from his own facial cuts. X-rays and a scan at the track medical centre, however, confirmed that he had no serious injury and he was taken to hospital in Bologna. It was later revealed that he has a broken nose and bruised ribs.

Barrichello, at 21 the youngest driver in the championship and lying second in the standings, was conscious and joking with team members before he left the circuit. 'I don't know what happened, but I think I was quick,' he said. 'I feel OK. It's just a bit difficult to breathe because my nose is swollen and my hand hurts a bit. I'll be back tomorrow but I accept that I won't be able to race.'

His relieved boss, Eddie Jordan, could not believe it. ' He went in hard and he's a very lucky lad to get away with it. I couldn't see that he'd be allowed to drive again this weekend. I'd like him in the car as soon as possible because that's the best thing for him. But I'm just happy he's in one piece.

'He lost his memory and the medical people were worried when he was still in the car because he'd swallowed blood and they couldn't get to him properly with his helmet on. Then he went a little berserk, which is normal when they put pipes down the neck.'

Barrichello's car, on its first fast lap, failed to negotiate the first left- hander at the bottom chicane and flew sideways, clipping the top of the tyre barrier and lifting into the fencing. Spectators, seated yards behind, winced as the car was flung back into the ground, eventually coming to a halt on its side.

Ayrton Senna, who returned to the track on the resumption of the session to claim provisional pole position in his Williams-Renault, was another driver to spin on this day of a dozen alarming incidents at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari.

'I think the result is excellent, given the circumstances,' he said. 'I don't feel I ever drove the car properly. I was out there when Rubens had the accident and after that I wasn't driving well, not consistent.'

Jordan said he had no indication as to the cause of the accident, though there had been a previous spin at that point. His other driver, Andrea de Cesaris, deputising for Irvine, hit a wall and lost a wheel. Jordan added: 'It's not been a good day for us. It's hard and competitive out there. Drivers are pushing and trying very hard.'

That was confirmed by Martin Brundle, who had to abandon his McLaren-Peugeot after sliding off the circuit. The Briton, who finished the session 15th, said: 'You have to bear in mind that we have no traction control any more and this track is slippery.'

Brundle's compatriot, Damon Hill, spun exiting the precarious chicane in his Williams and was never able to find a rhythm. Seventh overnight, he said: 'Ruben's accident was pretty horrendous and it was one of those days I would also rather put behind me.

'It was a set-up problem which may have contributed to my going off in the morning and in the afternoon. After qualifying resumed I was anxious to get on the grid rather than get a time.'

For all Senna's apprehension, his time was too good for the rest, even for Michael Schumacher, underlining the power advantage Williams have over the championship leader and his Benetton-Ford. Schumacher, winner of the opening two races, was yet another of the spinners yesterday and had a best time almost half a second down on Senna.

Gerhard Berger, perhaps the most celebrated of crash survivors here, gave the Ferrari faithful heart with third place, immediately followed by J J Lehto, at the wheel of the other Benetton after missing the Brazilian and Pacific grands prix through injury. Mark Blundell, in a Tyrrell- Yamaha, was 10th and Johnny Herbert, in his Lotus-Mugen, was 19th.

SAN MARINO GRAND PRIX (Tomorrow) First qualifying session: 1 A Senna (Bra) Williams-Renault, 1min 21.548sec (ave speed 222.4kph/138.2mph); 2 M Schumacher (Ger) Benetton-Ford, 1:22.015; 3 G Berger (Aut) Ferrari, 1:22.113; 4 J J Lehto (Fin) Benetton-Ford, 1:22.717; 5 N Larini (It) Ferrari, 1:22.841; 6 H-H Frentzen (Ger) Sauber-Mercedes, 1:23.119; 7 D Hill (GB) Williams-Renault, 1:23.199; 8 M Hakkinen (Fin) McLaren-Peugeot, 1:23.611; 9 G Morbidelli (It) Footwork-Ford, 1:23.663; 10 M Blundell (GB) Tyrrell-Yamaha, 1:23.703; 11 K Wendlinger (Aut) Sauber-Mercedes, 1:23.788; 12 U Katayama (Japan) Tyrrell-Yamaha, 1:24.000; 13 P L Martini (It) Minardi-Ford, 1:24.078; 14 M Alboreto (It) Minardi-Ford, 1:24.276; 15 M Brundle (GB) McLaren- Peugeot, 1:24.443; 16 C Fittipaldi (Bra) Footwork- Ford, 1:24.655; 17 E Bernard (Fr) Ligier-Renault, 1:24.678; 18 O Panis (Fr) Ligier-Renault, 1:24.996; 19 J Herbert (GB) Lotus Mugen-Honda, 1:25.114; 20 A De Cesaris (It) Jordan-Hart, 1:25.234; 21 E Comas (Fr) Larrousse-Ford, 1:26.295; 22 P Lamy (Por) Lotus Mugen-Honda, 1:26.453; 23 O Beretta (Fr) Larrousse- Ford, 1:27.179; 24 D Brabham (Aus) Simtek-Ford, 1:27.607; 25 R Ratzenberger (Aut) Simtek-Ford, 1:27.657; 26 B Gachot (Bel) Pacific-Ilmor, 1:27.732; 27 P Belmondo (Fr) Pacific-Ilmor, 1:28.361; 28 R Barrichello (Bra) Jordan-Hart, no competitive time.