Motor racing: Damon Hill returned to Suzuka yesterday for the first time since winning the world title there. Maybe he wishes he hadn't...

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The Independent Online
Four weeks after winning the Japanese Grand Prix to clinch the Formula One World Drivers' Championship, Damon Hill was forced to take in another view of Suzuka's scenery.

Hill crashed heavily while testing tyres at the Suzuka circuit yesterday in his first session with his new Arrows team, but escaped unhurt. He was driving a Ligier for the planned two-day test - because he is too tall to fit in the Arrows car which has not yet been adapted for him - and lost control of his car at low speed on cold tyres on the exit of the hairpin and spun around before colliding with the wall on the inside of the track.

The impact ripped two corners off the car and wrecked the gearbox, causing the Arrows team to abandon testing a day early. The team were evaluating the Bridgestone tyres which they plan to use next season.

Hill triumphed at Suzuka on 13 October in his final grand prix for Williams- Renault, who sacked him for the 1997 season in favour of the German rookie Heinz-Harald Frentzen. It was Hill's eighth grand prix win of the season and 21st in all.

Signed by Tom Walkinshaw's Arrows team in late September, Hill had impressed his new team before crashing. He set a best lap of 1min 40.14sec, which broke the lap record for the car by more than 1.5sec. Hill said before testing: "The purpose of this week is to get out there and establish where they [the tyres] stand now and what their potential is.

"There will be the opportunity to go into several different directions, I expect, so it's important for me to get up to speed with them."