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Motor Racing Roundup : Senna Wins Grand Prix Title With 1 Race Left

<i> From Times Wire Services</i>

Was there ever any doubt?

In the predictable world of Grand Prix racing, Ayrton Senna of Brazil clinched his first driver’s championship Sunday in the second-to-last event by winning at Suzuka, Japan.

Senna, driving a turbocharged McLaren Honda, overcame a stall from his pole-position start and tracked down his chief rival and teammate Alain Prost to win the Japan Grand Prix.

Senna completed 51 laps of the 3.641-mile Suzuka circuit in 1 hour 33 minutes 26.173 seconds. Prost of France, who could have forced a showdown in the final Formula One series event Nov. 12 at Adelaide, Australia, by winning, finished second in 1:33:39.536.

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Senna averaged 119.23 m.p.h., as he scored his 8th Grand Prix victory this season. The triumph, worth 9 points, gave Senna a total of 87 in the world driving championship.

Prost, who has 84 points, could only tie Senna if he wins the Australian Grand Prix. Senna, however, still would be named the champion because he would have more victories--8 to Prost’s 6. Only 11 of the 16 Formula One races each year count toward the driver’s title.

Senna drove magnificently after a near-disaster start.

“I told myself that it was over, but I began to find my rhythm and was going quicker and quicker,” Senna said. “Then some drizzle came, and that helped me because everyone slowed down and I caught up a lot.”

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Prost was the early leader, but Senna charged into 1st on the 28th lap. Then Senna sped away to an easy victory.

Thiery Boutsen of Belgium, in a Benetton Ford DFR, finished 3rd in 1:34.02.282. Gerhard Berger of Austria, winner of the 1987 Japan Grand Prix in a Ferrari, placed 4th in 1:34.52.887.

It was a disappointing day for the Arrows Megatron team, as both its drivers--American Eddie Cheever and Derek Warwick of Britain--did not complete the race.

Harry Gant won the 200-lap Grand National event in the $170,000 Winston tripleheader at Martinsville, Va., Speedway, taking the lead with 2 laps left when Tommy Houston’s Buick ran out of gas.

Tom Baldwin won the 200-lap Winston Modified Tour race in a Pontiac, and Phil Warren took the 100-lap Late Model Stock car event in a Pontiac.

Gant, who is winless on the Winston Cup tour this season, has claimed five of the last seven Grand National races. He earned $10,500 as he made it 2 straight victories at Martinsville.

Rob Moroso finished 2nd, 7 seconds behind Gant, and Tommy Ellis, who already had clinched the 1988 Grand National title, was 3rd.

Jeff Krosnoff of Flintridge gained his fourth Racetruck Challenge victory of the season at the Fall Festival of Races at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.

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Krosnoff, driving a Nissan, took the lead for good on lap 17 en route to a 3.791-second victory over teammate Ray Kong.


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