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Toyota upbeat after Bahrain showing

TOYOTA is so close to its first Formula One victory it can almost smell it, according to motorsport president John Howett.

Italian Jarno Trulli and Germany's Timo Glock lined up first and second on the starting grid in Bahrain on Sunday in the team's first sweep of the front row since Toyota's debut in the sport in 2002.

In the race, Trulli was third while Glock had to settle for seventh.

If that was a crushing disappointment for a team desperate for some return on its massive investment, Briton Howett refused to show it. "I take it one way very positively, in that actually this time last year or even two years ago we would have been delighted to be on the podium.

"Now we are disappointed that we only got third place.

"I think it is a measure of how competitive we are. It's clear when you look at the end of the race, the car was right there with the Red Bull and not far behind Brawn, really, if we had got the strategy right.

"We should be positive and build from there," he said. "It (the first victory) is much closer, it's not far."

Asked if he could smell it, Howett nodded: "Yes".

Trulli's pole position was only Toyota's third in 126 starts and the team has yet to finish higher than fourth in the constructors' championship (in 2005). It is now third, just a point behind Red Bull.

Before the start of the season, against a backdrop of economic uncertainty caused by the global credit crunch and Honda's decision to quit Formula One, Howett made clear Toyota needed a victory to secure its future in the sport.

He said in Bahrain it was still important, even if the signs were encouraging. "I believe we are demonstrating we are very competitive and I think Toyota is, as a complete organization, quite excited."

Trulli said tire choice had been a big factor in Sunday's race but stopped short of criticizing his team for its decisions. "It didn't work out but in the end it is still a podium, still a good race," he said. "Obviously the target was to win a race but I think we still have to improve our pace."


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