March 2000 Motorsport News

01.03.2000 - F1

Michael Schumacher has claimed that Ferrari's traditionally slow starts to the season are a thing of the past. The Italian-based team have missed out on the drivers' title on the final day of the last three seasons after late surges put them in contention. However, Ferrari's new F1-2000 car has been two seconds a lap quicker than last year's F399 in practice. Schumacher told Gazzetta dello Sport: "We want to start winning right from the very first race."


F1:- Formula One rookie Jenson Button topped the times as BMW Williams completed its final test preparations at Silverstone before the Australian Grand Prix. Despite intermittent rain, Button managed to complete 43 timed laps, as well as practicing pit-stop strategy for the March 12 opener. He said: "This test proved invaluable for my learning and development. "The team has done a great job over the past few weeks and now it's down to me in Melbourne."

Wednesday's leading times:   mins secs
1 J Button      GB  Williams  1:26.385
2 D Coulthard   GB  McLaren   1:27.232
3 J Trulli      It  Jordan    1:27.465
4 R Zonta       Brz BAR       1:27.736
5 P de la Rosa  Sp  Arrows    1:28.139
6 L Burti       Brz Jaguar    1:28.520
7 H-H Frentzen  Ger Jordan    1:28.795
8 N Heidfeld    Ger Prost     1:29.009

BTCC:- The contenders for the championship went head-to-head for the first time this year as the season's opening test day was held at windswept Brands Hatch. A total of 22 drivers have entered Britain's premier motor racing series which gets underway at the Kent circuit on Sunday, 9 April. Nissan's Matt Neal was quickest with a lap of 46.379secs, three-hundredths of a second ahead of Alain Menu. Yvan Muller of France and Swede Rickard Rydell shared third spot.

Top testing times from Brands Hatch
Indy Circuit (Thur):           secs
 1 M Neal        GB  Nissan   46.379
 2 A Menu        Swi Ford     46.415
 3 Y Muller      Fr  Vauxhall 46.547
 = R Rydell      Swe Ford     46.547
 5 G Tarquini    It  Honda    46.729
 6 A Reid        GB  Ford     46.814
 7 T Kristensen  Den Honda    46.818
 8 J Thompson    GB  Honda    46.854
 9 V Radermecker Bel Vauxhall 47.192
10 C Blair       GB  Nissan   48.099

MALCOLM WILSON RALLY:- The second round of this year's BTRDA series is adopting a new format for 2000 with an extra stage on Friday. Saturday then sees a full day of rallying in the Lake District forests. Neil Wearden and Mark Higgins will be first away in their Vauxhall Astras, as they get in some valuable testing before the British Championship. Last year's winner Steve Petch leads the Open category in his Escort World Rally Car ahead of another previous winner, Bob Green.

ROBIN HOOD RALLY:- The new MSA Championship starts near Worksop on Sunday with over 150 cars expected to take part. Entries to the event have come from all over the UK and Ireland and the Isle of Man. Paul Merryweather's Mercedes and Peter Quinton's Mk2 Jaguar are among the star attractions. The modern rally will see Escort Cosworths, Lancia Intergrale, Mitsubishi EV05 RS and Subaru Impreza WRX all in the field.


F1:- The Arrows Formula One team have announced a £70m sponsorship deal with mobile phone giant Orange. The deal will last for three years and sees the team renamed the Orange Arrows F1 team, with the cars being painted bright orange. Team boss Tom Walkinshaw said: "This puts us right up there at the top of the pile as far as backing goes. Arrows will be one of the best-funded teams in Formula One and that's what you need to compete."

NEWS:- Peugeot Sport has annnounced that 40 drivers have registered for the Peugeot Super 106 Cup.


NASCAR:- Longtime NASCAR star Ricky Rudd claimed pole for Sunday's 400. Rudd, who found new life when he closed down his own team to drive for the elite Robert Yates Racing, set a lap record of 172.563 miles per hour. That beat out first-year duo Scott Pruett and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who got round the 1.5-mile oval at 172.381 and 172.216 respectively. Rudd said: "It's almost like being a rookie again. Racing is fun for me for the first time in years." 400, Las Vegas
(Friday qualifying times):
 1 R Rudd         Ford      172.563 mph
 2 S Pruett       Ford      172.381
 3 D Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 172.216
 4 B Labonte      Pontiac   171.816
 5 M Martin       Ford      171.647
 6 D Jarrett      Ford      171.141
 7 M Waltrip      Chevrolet 171.000
 8 J Benson       Pontiac   170.951
 9 J Nadeau       Chevrolet 170.638
10 J Gordon       Chevrolet 170.568

BTRDA SERIES (Malcolm Wilson Rally):-
Final positions after 9 stages:mins secs
1 Petch/Richardson Escort WRC   48:36
2 S & S Egglestone Mitsubishi   48:49
3 Milner/Beech     Toyota Cel   49:46
4 W & N Sisson     Mitsubishi   50:03
5 Watson/Lancaster Escort Cos   50:09

05.03.2000 - ROBIN HOOD RALLY (Worksop)

Sunday results (after 7 stages)
Historic Cars:            hrs:mins.secs
1 Whale/Kennedy   Porsche     0:26.43
2 Kynaston/Bulley Sunbeam     0:27.08
3 Nutt/McBride    Porsche     0:27.22
4 Hall/Wilcock    Triumph     0:27.42
5 Stewart/Cova    Porsche     0:27.53

Modern Cars:
1 D'worth/B'field Subaru      0:24.14
2 Kellam/Morpeth  Mitsubishii 0:24.50
3 Jenkin/Basse    Subaru      0:25.08
4 Wood/Waterfall  Subaru      0:25.09
5 Proctor/Lawson  Sapphire    0:25.44

06.03.2000 - F1: AUSTRALIAN GP

Melbourne again kicks off the season on Sunday and the campaign could produce another close battle for honours. McLaren and Ferrari are tipped to be the front-runners but Jordan, who were third overall in 1999, Williams and Jaguar are keen to make their mark. Eddie Irvine, David Coulthard, Johnny Herbert and Jenson Button will head the British bid. Debutant Button has joined the sport in a blaze of publicity and will be out to prove his critics wrong.

Mika Hakkinen will be bidding to become the only living driver to secure three driver titles in a row this season. The late, great Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio claimed four successive crowns from 1954 to 1957. Meanwhile, Hakkinen's rival Michael Schumacher achieved a double success in 1994 and 1995. Finnish star Hakkinen has achieved his feat on the back of only 14 grand prix wins, while Ferrari's Schumacher has notched 35 victories.

McLaren's Mika Hakkinen will be targeting a repeat of his 1998 Australia win in Sunday's race in an effort to ease the pressure early on. The Finn suffered throttle problems last season and was forced to retire after 21 laps. Car problems and uncharacteristic errors hit his 1999 campaign, although he did claim the crown in the end. He failed to finish five times in 1999 and arguably in another season that could have ended his title hopes.

Michael Schumacher believes that Ferrari can end their 21-year wait for the drivers' title in 2000. Schumacher is arguably the best driver on the grand prix circuit and looked a good bet for a third title last season before breaking a leg at Silverstone. The German has hinted that the F1-2000 could be the car to beat. "I do not know where McLaren are right now but I am confident that the gap between us before the first race will not exist any more," said Schumacher.

Mika Salo believes that Michael Schumacher will overshadow new Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello on his way to taking the title. Salo, who stood in for Schumacher after the German broke his leg in the British Grand Prix, said: "I think Michael will destroy Rubens totally, quite soon. Rubens will be quick but I think he will not quite be where Michael is. I think Michael will be very fast. Ferrari will put everything behind him and I think they will do it."

Jordan are targeting a repeat of their overall third place in 1999 at least. Chief executive Eddie Jordan said: "We have McLaren and Ferrari in our sights. If they drop their guard we will be in there to challenge them. I will be bitterly disappointed if we do anything less than finish third. I want to do at least as well but want to do it by winning more points. Winning is the only thing that I can think about. The feeling is the same through the team and makes me proud."

Heinz-Harald Frentzen answered his critics with a resurgence in form last year to finish third in the driver list and is out to build on that in 2000. "I am looking forward to going to Australia," he said. "It is a great country with a wonderful atmosphere. I am particularly excited about racing again and being back in action after the winter break. Bringing all the test results together we think we will do well in Melbourne. My target is to make points."

07.03.2000 - F1

Michael Schumacher wants four more years in Formula One ` and looks likely to spend them with Ferrari. Schumacher plans to continue after his contract with the Italian team runs out at the end of 2002 even if he regains the drivers' crown. He said: "I think I'm young enough to do this until I'm 35 and we will see what happens afterwards. I believe I have quite a job to do right now to win the championship with Ferrari which is enough to worry about."

McLaren boss Ron Dennis has reopened old wounds on the eve of the new season by accusing Formula One chiefs of bias towards Ferrari. McLaren lost the constructors' title and Dennis said: "The fact is this is a sport where people like to see people occasionally winning. That's in contrast with our own objective to win every single race. In areas of judgment the judgment's always going to go against us because it's good for the sport."

Arrows will use Australian Mark Webber as their official test driver this season. He will also drive in Formula 3000 for European, Arrow's junior team.

10.03.2000 - F1: THE AUSTRALIAN GP

Michael Schumacher crashed off the track during the second unofficial practice session - but only after setting the fastest lap time. The German walked away unscathed after he ploughed into barriers on his 15th practice lap. Scot David Coulthard spun twice - but ended with the second fastest time. Youngest-ever GP Briton Jenson Button turned in an impressive session, avoiding mistakes and steadily trimming his lap times.

Michael Schumacher admitted his crash had been his own fault. The German lost control approaching the 14th turn, snapping two wheels of his Ferrari as he hit a tyre barrier. "It was my fault. The car slipped away from me, I lost control ` I was simply going too fast for the situation. David Coulthard said of his spin: "The spin scared the hell out of me. It is not a nice feeling when that happens in a GP car at that speed."

Jenson Button was pleased with his performance in the first practice session for Sunday's race, despite only ending 18th fastest. The Williams driver said: "I am pretty satisfied with what went on. The brief from the team was to go out there and learn the circuit and get into the swing of things. The first lap I did was a bit scary and at the end of the session I hit a bird which entered the cockpit and I had to come in to take it out!"

Friday's leading practice times:mins:secs
 1 M Schumacher  Ger Ferrari  1:32.130
 2 D Coulthard   GB  McLaren  1:32.144
 3 R Barrichello Brz Ferrari  1:32.482
 4 M Hakkinen    Fin McLaren  1:32.702
 5 J Villeneuve  Can Bar-Hon  1:33.525
 6 P Diniz       Brz Sauber   1:33.597
 7 HH Frentzen   Ger Jordan   1:33.698
 8 A Wurz        Aut Benetton 1:33.718
 9 R Zonta       Brz Bar-Hon  1:33.847
10 E Irvine      GB  Jaguar   1:33.899
11 M Salo        Fin Sauber   1:33.940
12 G Mazzacane   Arg Minardi  1:33.988
13 G Fisichella  It  Benetton 1:34.049
14 P de la Rosa  Sp  Arrows   1:34.060
15 J Trulli      It  Jordan   1:34.151
16 R Schumacher  Ger Williams 1:34.158
17 J Herbert     GB  Jaguar   1:34.414
18 J Button      GB  Williams 1:34.547
19 M Gene        Sp  Minardi  1:34.696
20 J Verstappen  NL  Arrows   1:34.708
21 J Alesi       Fr  Prost    1:35.613
22 N Heidfeld    Ger Prost    1:35.997


Mika Hakkinen took pole position for the opening race of 2000. The world champion's McLaren team-mate David Coulthard will join him on the front row for Sunday's race, while Michael Schumacher was third quickest. Schumacher was on a flying lap at the end of qualifying but his bid for pole was thwarted when the session was stopped when Coulthard crashed. Eddie Irvine was seventh, Jenson Button was 21st after being hit by car problems and Johnny Herbert was 20th.

Mika Hakkinen was pleased to have claimed his third straight pole position in Australia after suffering mechanical problems in practice. He drove only six laps earlier in the day but excelled in qualifying and said: "I expected it to be quite close. As long as we are first and second it does not matter." David Coulthard was second quickest and was unhurt after a late crash. He added: "I lost the back end trying to make up some time."

Rookie Jenson Button was downcast after only qualifying down in 21st place. His car had to be rebuilt after he crashed during practice and then he was hit by fuel pick-up problems. He admitted: "I am very, very disappointed. It could not have gone any worse. I had problems with my car so had to switch to the spare car. Every time I got on the track there seemed to be yellow flags. I think I was running 13th fastest at the end when David Coulthard had his accident."

Team chief Frank Williams was impressed with how Jenson Button handled all the problems he suffered in qualifying. Car hitches meant Button only posted the 21st fastest time but Williams said: "Jenson has remained very cool and calm by it all. His manner in the cockpit has been outstanding. We are very impressed with him." BMW Motorsport director and former driver Gerhard Berger added: "Jenson had bad luck."

Michael Schumacher was unperturbed after his late push to claim pole was halted when qualifying was stopped fractionally early. The decision was made after David Coulthard hit a barrier but Schumacher was third fastest and insisted: "I am not frustrated. I am not worried. It does not really matter if you are in first or third position. It is going to be a long race, a hard race and I am confident we have got the set-up to make a challenge."

Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert had mixed fortunes for Jaguar, clocking the seventh and 20th fastest times respectively for the team. Irvine admitted: "I am pleasantly surprised. I honestly did not think we could qualify that high up." Herbert commented: "This is the worst pre-race build-up I can remember. The engine cut out on turn two and as I left the garage in the spare car I lost the power steering and had all sorts of handling problems."

Team chief Ron Dennis has hit back at claims by Eddie Irvine that he turned down McLaren because they were not offering enough money. Dennis confirmed they had discussions with Irvine last season, but did not make any financial offer to the driver. "I am extremely uncomfortable to see Eddie's view that he was the one that was dictating the talks," Dennis said. "The decision not to offer Eddie the drive was based on nothing else but who we felt were the best racing drivers."

Benetton's Giancarlo Fisichella qualified in ninth place and said: "We aimed to get in the first 10 so I am fairly satisfied with this position." His team-mate Alexander Wurz was 14th and added: "I was ridiculously unlucky with traffic in qualifying." Arrows drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Jos Verstappen will be 12th and 13th on the grid on Sunday. Team chief Tom Walkinshaw said: "I cannot pretend to be happy. Top 10 places for both drivers were possible."

Qualifying results (Sat):    mins:secs
 1 M Hakkinen    Fin McLaren  1:30.556
 2 D Coulthard   GB  McLaren  1:30.910
 3 M Schumacher  Ger Ferrari  1:31.075
 4 R Barrichello Brz Ferrari  1:31.102
 5 H-H Frentzen  Ger Jordan   1:31.359
 6 J Trulli      It  Jordan   1:31.504
 7 E Irvine      GB  Jaguar   1:31.514
 8 J Villeneuve  Can BAR      1:31.968
 9 G Fisichella  It  Benetton 1:31.992
10 M Salo        Fin Sauber   1:32.018
11 R Schumacher  Ger Williams 1:32.220
12 P de la Rosa  Sp  Arrows   1:32.323
13 J Verstappen  Hol Arrows   1:32.477
14 A Wurz        Aut Benetton 1:32.775
15 N Heidfeld    Ger Prost    1:33.024
16 R Zonta       Brz BAR      1:33.117
17 J Alesi       Fr  Prost    1:33.197
18 M Gene        Sp  Minardi  1:33.261
19 P Diniz       Brz Sauber   1:33.378
20 J Herbert     GB  Jaguar   1:33.638
21 J Button      GB  Williams 1:33.828
22 G Mazzacane   Arg Minardi  1:34.705

SCOTTISH RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP:- Andrew Wood made it two wins out of two with victory to set up an early lead in this year's championship. He was more than a minute ahead of reigning champion Jon Burn, with Jim Carty in third spot. However it was another bad day for pre- race favourite Brian Lyall, who once again failed to finish after crashing on the second stage. Jim McRae finished outside the points after his Porsche was delayed due to two punctures.

 1 Wood/Parker    Audi Quattro 46:50
 2 Burn/Quirk     MG Metro     48:05
 3 Carty/Bell     MG Metro     48:17
 4 Walker/Martin  Mazda 323    48:33
 5 Moore/Curry    Ford Escort  48:50
 6 Bell/Spooner   Ford Escort  48:58
 7 McRae/Ewing    Porsche 911  48:59
 8 Dickson/Bisset Ford Escort  49:08
 9 Adam/Adam      Mitsubishi   49:17
10 Smith/C'stairs Ford Escort  49:31


Michael Schumacher surged to victory in the opening race of the season and his new team-mate Rubens Barrichello made it a one-two for Ferrari. Their progress was aided by the retirements of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard and Jaguar's Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert also failed to finish. Ralf Schumacher was third and Jacques Villeneuve was fourth. Jenson Button had a superb debut and was in sixth place before going out with an engine problem after 46 laps.

Michael Schumacher confirmed that he believes he has the car that can give him another world title after he earned his first Australian Grand Prix win. When asked if he was delighted at Ferrari's one-two Down Under, he commented: "Delighted is probably the wrong word. This was the fifth time that we had tried to win this race while trying to begin the season competitively. Now I feel that this is the car that we can fight the championship with."

Britain's Jenson Button insisted that he was not disappointed after being denied a point on his debut when his engine blew up. The 20-year-old was running in sixth place when he retired but claimed: "I am not really disappointed. Starting in 21st place was not the way I wanted to start but I had a couple of good races with Alexander Wurz and also with Giancarlo Fisichella. I am very happy and will now start testing for the next race."

Britain's Jenson Button went some way to answering his critics by completing 46 laps before retiring. Suggestions had been made that the 20- year-old was not ready to enter Formula One but he kept out of trouble and went further than many of the 'veterans'. "My start was not the best in the world but some people had worse," he said. The first lap was very hectic and I tried to stay out of trouble. I made a little mistake on the fifth lap but apart from that it was neat and tidy."

The top three on the grid got away safely at the start, with Mika Hakkinen making the most of his pole position to head the field. David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher filed in behind him but Heinz-Harald Frentzen gained a place on Rubens Barichello to move into fourth. Meanwhile, Williams' Jenson Button, who had qualified in 21st place, had a great start on his race debut. He had moved up to 15th place before the end of the first lap.

McLaren duo Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard left Melbourne with nothing for the second year running. Hakkinen had built up a lead of 3.4 seconds over Michael Schumacher after 15 laps but three laps later the Finn's race ended. He was hit by an engine-based problem and was forced to park on the grass. Coulthard had retired earlier with the same problem. He pitting on lap 11 with a fire in the rear of his car and after briefly rejoining the race pulled out.

Mika Salo was stripped of sixth place after the race when it was discovered that the front wing of his Sauber did not comply with FIA regulations. A Melbourne stewards' statement said: "The team manager and technical director accepted it did not comply with article 3.11 of the regulations." It means that British American Racing had two drivers in the points because Ricardo Zonta has been moved to sixth. Jacques Villeneuve was fourth as BAR claimed their first points.

Mika Hakkinen revealed that he was pleased with his car until he cruised to a halt on the 19th lap. The Finn was leading the race when he pulled out and stated: "I was very happy with the car until I was forced to retire with a technical failure. Obviously I am disappointed to leave Australia without any points, particularly as I did not score any here last year either." He had a 2.6-second lead when smoke appeared from the rear of his McLaren.

David Coulthard loked on course for a second-place finish at least before he retired with oil pouring from the underside of his car. The Scot revealed: "I made a good start and was feeling comfortable in second place when the engine developed a misfire after the safety car pulled in. I went into the pits to change the engine but we could not cure it. I was keeping the pressure on Mika and waiting for the pit stops. I did not think he would retire as well."

McLaren boss Ron Dennis has confirmed that both his drivers failed to finish because of the engine problem that had hindered them in practice on Saturday. Dennis admitted: "It is very frustrating because you complete thousands of miles in testing to try and avoid this sort of thing in a race. At least it is all the same fault and only a very small one. It is difficult to accept when you are dominating a race and on course for a comfortable result."

Johnny Herbert was once again hit by bad luck in Australia. A year after failing to start in Melbourne, the Jaguar driver was forced out after one lap when he was shunted by Pedro Diniz. The Briton also had car problems and said: "I made a good start but I think Pedro got pushed and went into me although my clutch had gone as well. It is frustrating. We need the mileage and have had an engine problem which we hoped to put right but have not."

Eddie Irvine completed a miserable start to the season for Jaguar when he followed team-mate Johnny Herbert out of the race after only six laps. The safety car came out briefly when Irvine's wheels came off when he hit a wall after trying to avoid Pedro de la Rosa, who was forced out ahead of him. Irvine said: "No-one collected anyone. De la Rosa hit the wall and my car spun as I lifted the throttle to avoid him. It was a repeat of the handling problem which we have spoken about."

British American Racing failed to pick up a single point in their first season in 1999 but were delighted after both drivers put that right Down Under. Jacques Villeneuve was fourth and Ricardo Zonta was later promoted to sixth after Mika Salo was disqualified. Villeneuve said: "I knew we would be able to score points. To do it in our first race with Honda is really good." Zonta added: "I had a few problems this weekend but in the race the car and engine ran perfectly."

Benetton driver Giancarlo Fisichella managed to overcome an early problem to secure a two-point finish in fifth. "I had a bad start as there was a problem with the clutch and I lost a couple of places," he commented. "Then either someone touched me or something on the rear of my car broke because it became really loose and I had massive oversteer in the corners. Once I had learned how to control it I was able to be fairly competitive. It is a good start for the season."

Arrows hopes of finishing in the points were thwarted when Jos Verstappen and Pedro de la Rosa were prevented from finishing by the same problem. Their efforts were hampered by a front suspension problem on both cars and team chief Tom Walkinshaw said: "I am disappointed with the outcome. When I see how many cars have retired I know we could have got points. We are confident that we have competitive cars and that the A21 and Supertec package is working well."

Result after 58 laps:         hr min sec
 1 M Schumacher  Ger Ferrari  1:34.01.9
 2 R Barrichello Brz Ferrari  1:34.13.4
 3 R Schumacher  Ger Williams 1:34.21.9
 4 J Villeneuve  Can BAR      1:34.46.4
 5 G Fisichella  It  Benetton 1:34.47.1
 6 R Zonta       Brz BAR      1:34.48.4
 7 A Wurz        Aut Benetton 1:34.48.4
 8 M Gene        Sp  Minardi    one lap behind
 9 N Heidfeld    Ger Prost      two laps
M Salo was sixth but was excluded after his car
bodywork was declared illegal

NOT CLASSIFIED (did not finish) laps
10 J Button      GB  Williams     46
11 P Diniz       Brz Sauber       41
12 G Mazzacane   Arg Minardi      40
13 H-H Frentzen  Ger Jordan       39
14 J Trulli      It  Jordan       35
15 J Alesi       Fr  Prost        27
16 M Hakkinen    Fin McLaren      18
17 J Verstappen  Hol Arrows       16
18 D Coulthard   GB  McLaren      11
19 P de la Rosa  Sp  Arrows        6
20 E Irvine      GB  Jaguar        6
21 J Herbert     GB  Jaguar        1
DSQ M Salo       Fin Sauber
Fastest lap: Barrichello 1:31.481 (41)

1 M Schumacher  Ger  Ferrari   10 pts
2 R Barrichello Brz  Ferrari    6
3 R Schumacher  Ger  Williams   4
4 J Villeneuve  Can  BAR        3
5 G Fisichella  It   Benetton   2
6 R Zonta       Brz  BAR        1

1 Ferrari       16 pts
2 BAR            5
3 Williams       4
4 Benetton       2


F1:- McLaren boss Ron Dennis has slammed Michael Schumacher's claim that Ferrari would still have won in Melbourne even if the McLarens had not retired. Dennis was furious after Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard's early exits. He said: "We, not Schumacher, actually had it all in hand. For him to say he was just sitting there waiting for us to fail is ludicrous. We know he was deeply upset not to have got pole and what he is saying is a load of bull."

F3:- Green Flag are to be the new title sponsors for the British Formula Three Championship, which starts at Thruxton on March 26.


F3 (Donington Park Testing):- Antonio Pizzonia topped the times for the fourth test in a row, despite running on old tyres. He revealed: "We did not use new tyres all day so I still think we can go quicker. This is the first time this year I have driven the car in the dry."

Leading times (Tue):
1 A Pizzonia      Honda    1:28.437
2 B Collins       Honda    1:29.004
3 N Kiesa         Opel     1:29.134
4 N Karthikeyan   Honda    1:29.346
5 A Priaulx       Renault  1:29.409
6 M Davies        Renault  1:29.467

BRITISH GTs (Donington Park):- Reigning champion David Warnock and co-driver Rob Schirle topped the times as many of the leading teams met for a major pre-season test. Warnock's Lister Storm set the pace, while Neil Cunningham and Stephen Day's Chrysler Viper were second fastest overall after the afternoon session. Close behind was the new TVR Speed 12 of Ian McKellar. The cars will now be readied for the opening race of the season at Thruxton on Sunday, March 26.

RALLY OF PORTUGAL:- Portugal stages round four of the World Championship from Thursday to Sunday and it is the first sprint rally of the year run on loose-surface stages. The event grips the public's imagination, with fans usually lining the route waving banners, clapping and sounding klaxons. The rally starts with a 3.20km super- special in Baltar on Thursday. There are 10 stages on Friday, nine stages in the Arganil region on Saturday and three on Sunday.

World Championship leader Tommi Makinen won in Portugal in 1997 and believes he has a good chance of a repeat result. The Mitsubishi driver said: "The start of the season has been quite good and we already have some useful points. "Portugal can be quite difficult because you never know about the weather and some of the stages can be quite rough. However, I think it will be good for the Lancer Evolution and I am sure that we can win again."

Subaru are looking to continue their winning ways after their superb one-two in the Safari Rally last month. Richard Burns missed out on a victory in Portugal last year by less than a minute but is optimistic that he can put that right this time. "I like the stages in Portugal," he said. "The gravel can be quite sandy. "It will be the first chance for me to compete in the revised car. We have had some encouraging tests. The potential benefits are too good to ignore."

Colin McRae triumphed in the 1999 event and he will be hoping that the revised steering rack system on the Ford Focus will help him repeat that win. "It is the first rally of the season held on normal type of terrain and so it is a good gauge for us," he stated. "If the steering works as well as everyone hopes it will be a big improvement. It is one of the most important parts of the car. This should resolve a lot of the inconsistent feeling we have had."

Four-time world champion Juha Kankkunen will be one of the favourites for the event after winning the Rally of Portugal twice in 11 starts. He will be competing in the Subaru Impreza P2000 for the first time. The car is similar in appearance to the WRC99 but 90 per cent of the car's components have changed. "It is good to be back on the short and fast stages again," admitted the Finn. "We have tested well and with the new car I am feeling very confident."

Ford's Carlos Sainz has a reason to fondly remember the Rally of Portugal ` it is where the Spaniard made his World Championship debut back in 1987. The then unknown Sainz made a superb start by taking an early lead in his Ford Sierra before retiring. He has since won twice here and tested his Focus for three days last week. "That was the first time I have driven the car on true gravel stages because the Safari car was so different," he revealed. "It felt good."

Didier Auriol is looking forward to the challenge of the twisty, loose gravel roads presented by round four of the World Championship. The SEAT driver conceded: "It is a difficult rally and because of this we have worked very hard to improve the Cordoba for gravel. In Portugal torque and traction are key points for success and we are concentrating in these areas. We will continue testing right up to the start of the rally."

Skoda have scored points in both of their previous appearances in the 2000 series so will be bidding to keep up that record. Armin Schwarz was sixth in Monte Carlo and fifth in Kenya, while Luis Climent has had two top-10 finishes. Schwarz was third in Portugal in 1997 and said: "This is the first event that we are contesting for the second time with the Octavia. It feels more stable and the improved weight distribution is helping."

Portugal is a happy hunting ground for the Hyundai team. They made their World Championship debut in the 1998 event and last year claimed their first Formula Two win at the venue. Alister McRae and Kenneth Eriksson made it a one-two for the team but McRae knows they face a tough test this year. "Seven manufacturers, each with two cars and lots of privateers means we will have to work hard," he confirmed. "But I am looking forward to it."

NATIONAL SALOONS:- Gavin Pyper - who will drive an Alfa Romeo in the National Saloon series - has won backing from FL Great Britain, who distribute Selenia Motor Oil.


F1:- Jenson Button had a quickest lap time of 1:27.197 on the first day of a two- day test session at Silverstone. Olivier Panis, driving a McLaren, posted the fastest time of 1:24.383.

CART:- Dario Franchitti is determined to be fit for the FedEx CART opener in Miami on Sunday week. The Scot will get back into a car this weekend for the first time since fracturing his pelvis and suffering brain bruising only five weeks ago. He was hurt in a testing accident but insisted: "From the time that I was in hospital it was all about getting back for the first race. I just want to get back out and into the swing of things."

BRITISH RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP:- The Vauxhall Rally of Wales kicks off the new Mobil 1 British Rally Championship on Saturday and Sunday. Vauxhall and Volkswagen look to be the teams to beat this year. Volkswagen's Tapio Laukkanen will be defending his title, which he took from Renault last year. Neil Wearden is staying with Vauxhall after giving them a first British series win on last year's Ulster Rally. Mark Higgins joins him in the team.

Jarmo Kytolehto and Andrew Pinker will be competing in formula two in two Hyundai Coupes this year. Irishman Naill McShea will be driving a Citroen Saxo, while in the Ferodo Super 1600 category, Proton and Peugeot are again set to fight it out. Super 1600 champion Justin Dale is staying with the Peugeot 106, while Mats Anderson will remain with Proton. There will be a strong entry for Group N, with Jonny Milner likely to start as favourite in his Toyota Celica.

MINTEX RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP:- Chesterfield's Chris Mellors will be bidding to defend his lead in the series in Saturday's Vauxhall Panaround National Rally. The main opposition is likely to be provided by Steve Petch in his Ford Escort WRC. Petch led for much of round one before being hit by mechanical problems and slipping to second place. Welsh pair Glyn Jones and Ryland James will be joining the series for the first time in their Subaru Impreza.


F1:- Benetton have sold their Formula One team to Renault for £75m. However, the Italian clothes firm will remain as an official sponsor for the team for two years. Company chairman Luciano Benetton said: "We made a great commitment to Formula One racing that has brought us great satisfaction beyond our wildest hopes. "To guarantee the team the future it deserves it is best to change drivers." Michael Schumacher led Benetton to two driver titles in 1994 and 1995.

Renault, who have taken over the Benetton team, were the most successful engine supplier of the 1990s. They dropped out of the sport after the 1997 season. Benetton last won the driver and constructor titles in 1995 powered by Renault but the team have managed only one victory since, in Germany in 1997. The takeover follows the decision by Stewart last year to sell to Ford, who have since rebranded the team Jaguar from the 2000 season.

Jenson Button had a fastest time of one minute 25.142 on the second day of a two-day test at Silverstone.

BTCC (Oulton Park):- Matt Neal produced the fastest time ever by a touring car at the track, completing the circuit in 1:22.764. Neal maintained the form he showed in showed at Brands Hatch two weeks ago. Alain Menu was second fastest, followed by James Thompson.

Leading test times          mins secs
1 M Neal        GB  Nissan   1:22.764
2 A Menu        Swi Ford     1:22.777
3 J Thompson    GB  Honda    1:22.789
4 G Tarquini    It  Honda    1:23.043
5 R Rydell      Swe Ford     1:23.173
6 A Reid        GB  Ford     1:23.297

F.PALMER AUDI (Bedford):- Finnish driver Miku Santavirta, new to the series this season, posted the fastest time on the first serious day of testing this campaign. Derek Hayes was just behind, followed by Justin Keen. Tthe next test is at Snetterton on March 20.

Leading test times          mins secs
1 M Santavirta  Fin          1:33.180
2 D Hayes       GB           1:33.280
3 J Keen        GB           1:33.430
4 D Faulkner    Ire          1:33.470
5 D A Simonsen  Den          1:33.680
6 R Kerr        GB           1:33.710

LE MANS:- Chrysler have entered two Mopar V8-powered prototypes for the Le Mans 24-hour race on June 17-18.

RALLY OF PORTUGAL:- Marcus Gronholm of Finland, driving a Peugeot, held the lead after Thursday's solitary special stage. He covered the 3.2km stage in three minutes 6.2 seconds, 0.2 seconds ahead of compatriot Harri Rovanpera. Britain's Colin McRae was in third spot, a further 0.2 seconds behind, while Richard Burns was sixth, 2.8 seconds behind Gronholm. The rally begins in earnest on Friday when the drivers face ten stages covering a total of 158.8km.

Positions after 1 stage:
(Day 1)                         min sec
 1 M Gronholm  Fin Peugeot       3.06.2
 2 H Rovanpera Fin Toyota         @ 0.2
 3 C McRae     GB  Ford           @ 0.4
 4 T Radstrom  Swe Toyota         @ 2.0
 5 J Kankunnen Fin Subaru         @ 2.4
 6 R Burns     GB  Subaru         @ 2.8
 7 D Auriol    Fr  SEAT           @ 3.0
 8 C Sainz     Sp  Ford           @ 3.1
 = P Solberg   Nor Ford           @ 3.1
10 F Delecour  Fr  Peugeot        @ 3.3


F1:- Italian Flavio Briatore is returning to the Renault-owned Benetton grand prix team as a director. It follows Thursday's ś75m takeover of Benetton by Renault. Briatore led the team to two driver championships and one constructor crown in the 1990s and will oversee development of the car's chassis. He parted company with Benetton in 1997 but helped create Supertec, who commercialised Renault engines made by Mecachrome.

Driver Alexander Wurz has welcomed Renault's takeover of Benetton. He said: "The trend is towards big engine manuafacturers. They are always more engaged in the sport and can guarantee the success of the team. Renault have come into Formula One to win and they always managed that." The Austrian also said he was pleased that Flavio Briatore was coming back. "Flavio brought me into F1 and I have a good relationship with him," he added.

F3000 TESTING (Imola):-
Friday's overall times:       min secs
 1 E Bernoldi     Red Bull    1:39.099
 2 J Wilson       Nordic      1:39.353
 3 J Melo Jnr     Petrobas    1:39.365
 4 B Junquiera    Petrobas    1:39.426
 5 B Leinders     Kid Jensen  1:39.453
 6 M Webber       European F  1:39.500
 7 M Haberfield   Fortec      1:39.514
 8 D Saelens      Super Nova  1:39.530
 9 F Montagny     Dams        1:39.637
10 S Bourdais     Gauloises F 1:39.644

NATIONAL SALOONS:- Ex-Formula 3000 driver Phil Andrews will contest the Silverstone Insurance National Saloon Championship in a GR Motorsport Ford Focus. Tim Harvey will contest the Privilege Insurance British GT Championship this season. He will race for Ricardo/BW Motorsport in a Porsche.

RALLY OF PORTUGAL:- Colin McRae and Tommi Makinen were forced out of the rally on the ninth special stage. McRae had been in fine form before a problem with the engine in his Ford Focus ended his bid. World champion Tommi Makinen damaged his suspension and a wheel when running into a tree. Richard Burns had been leading the event but steering problems saw him finish the day in third spot. Finland's Marcus Gronholm held the lead.

An engine problem on the ninth stage put paid to Colin McRae's chances after he had coped with losing fifth and sixth gears on the previous stage. McRae had won the first stage of the day and was lying third when forced out and said: "Our stage win showed the times we're capable of producing. A fluid leak in the power steering cost time and we lost more time after the car bounced out of the ruts. We were well placed and it's disappointing to be going home early."

Positions after 11 stages:
(End of Day 2)              hr min sec
 1 M Gronholm  Fin Peugeot   1:50.28.6
 2 C Sainz     Sp  Ford          @28.6
 3 R Burns     GB  Subaru        @42.4
 4 H Rovanpera Fin Toyota        @43.0
 5 P Solberg   Nor Ford          @47.3
 6 D Auriol    Fr  SEAT          @52.6
 7 M Martin    Est Toyota     @01.16.7
 8 F Delecour  Fr  Peugeot    @01.22.3
 9 K Eriksson  Swe Hyundai    @01.26.9
10 A Lopes     Por Peugeot    @01.43.8

Retirements: Kankkunen, A McRae, C McRae, Makinen


F3000 (Imola):-
Official test times (Sat):
 1 B Junqueira  Petrobras     1:37.824
 2 E Bernoldi   Red Bull      1:38.316
 3 F Montagny   Dams          1:38.426
 4 T Enge       WHM/McLaren   1:38.493
 5 F Alonso     Astromega     1:38.523
 6 J V Hooydonk Witmeur       1:38.573
 7 M Haberfeld  Fortec        1:38.812
 8 S Sarrazin   WHM/McLaren   1:38.818
 9 J Wilson     Nordic        1:38.891
10 D Saelens    D2 Super Nova 1:38.894

SPORTSCARS:- Audi continued to set the pace as the Sebring 12-Hour sportscar endurance race in Florida reached the one-third stage. The pole-position starting Audi R8 of Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro, head the 48-car field in the annual American classic.

RALLY OF PORTUGAL:- Richard Burns gave way to Marcus Gronholm on the last stages of the day but looks to have plenty left in the tank for Sunday's final duel. Gronholm takes a slender 14.6 second lead into the final day. Burns said: "With the fading light, the dust, the trees and the spectators on the roadside I could not see anything. I had to slow down several times." Gronholm said: "Richard was way ahead of the rest. I gave it my all but there was nothing I could do."

Positions after 18 stages:
(end of day 3)               hr min sec
 1 M Gronholm  Fin Peugeot    3:50:29.4
 2 R Burns     GB  Subaru     3:50:44.0
 3 C Sainz     Sp  Ford       3:52:07.6
 4 H Rovanpera Fin Toyota     3:52:36.1
 5 F Delecour  Fr  Peugeot    3:53:29.4
 6 M Martin    Est Toyota     3:55:37.0
 7 F Loix      Bel Mitsubishi 3:56:36.6
 8 A Schwarz   Ger Skoda      3:56:58.1
 9 T G'meister Fin SEAT       3:57:22.2
10 D Auriol    Fr  SEAT       4:01:32.2

VAUXHALL RALLY OF WALES:- Mark Higgins took the lead of the Vauxhall Rally of Wales on stage two when Tapio Laukkanen rolled the Volkswagen and retired. Higgins then took fastest time on all the remaining days stages in the Vauxhall Astra kit car. "Apart from losing the front brakes in stage five, it's been a good day for the car and team. Tomorrow will be difficult as it's easy to lose concentration. I'll be going hard to keep the lead."

Mitsubishi driver Mark Perrott ended day one of the Vauxhall Rally of Wales in second overall. His prize for winning last year's Welsh National Championship was an entry into this year's Rally of Wales and he is delighted to be in such a good position "I was hoping to be in with the leading Group N cars but to be leading them and second overall is great. Tomorrow we will be going safely but at the same time, try and stay in front" he added.

LEADERBOARD after 6 of 11 stages
(interim)                    hr min sec
 1 Mark Higgins    Vauxhall   1:29:56.3
 2 Mark Perrott    Mitsubishi 1:31:08.6
 3 Neil Wearden    Vauxhall   1:31:31.2
 4 Markku Ipatti   Mitsubishi 1:32:06.0
 5 Mike Brown      Mitsubishi 1:33:03.6
 6 Jarmo Kytolehto Hyundai    1:33:14.8
 7 S Egglestone    Mitsubishi 1:33:23.4
 8 Gavin Cox       Mitsubishi 1:34:22.7
 9 Johan Kressner  Mitsubishi 1:34:47.8
10 Julian Reynolds Toyota     1:35:20.3

PANAROUND RALLY:- Welsh duo Glyn Jones and Ryland James took their Subaru to a home win on the second round of the Mintex Rally Championship, the Vauxhall Panaround. They held off heavy pressure from Steve Petch in the Ford Escort to hold the lead from stage one. Petch was content with second place after hitting a log pile on stage four. The Yorkshireman now takes the series lead, as round one winner, Chris Mellors, did not start this event.

LEADERBOARD after 6 of 11 stages
(interim)                    hr min sec
 1 Glyn Jones      Subaru     1:33:41.6
 2 Steve Petch     Ford       1:34:22.0
 3 Dave Weston     Mitsubishi 1:37:39.3
 4 Anthony Eaton   Ford       1:38:13.1
 5 Phil Morgan     Subaru     1:38:38.9
 6 Guy Robinson    Mitsubishi 1:38:41.2
 7 Mark Goodwin    Mitsubishi 1:42:30.1
 8 Andrew Kenny    Mitsubishi 1:42:54.4
 9 Dennis Parry    Ford       1:43:04.3
10 David Brown     Subaru     1:43:37.5


SPORTSCARS:- The Audi R8 of Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro, won the Sebring 12-Hour sportscar endurance race in Florida. The Audi of Michele Alboreto and Rinaldo Capello of Italy and Allan McNish of Scotland, was second. JJ Lehto of Finland and Jorg Muller of Germany, in a BMW V12, was third.

RALLY OF PORTUGAL:- Richard Burns claimed victory to become the first Englishman to lead the World Rally Championship standi gs. The Subaru driver held a slender 1.7- second lead over Marcus Gronholm going into the final stage but was faster than the Finn to win by 6.5 seconds. Spain's Carlos Sainz finished third, more than two seconds adrift. Burns' second successive victory saw him leapfrog champion Tommi Makinen, who was forced to retire from the event, in the drivers' standings.

Briton Richard Burns was in jubilant mood after taking his championship tally to seven victories. "It's a fantastic feeling," he said. "I'm happy I was able to bring the new car home to victory on its debut and gain the lead in the championship. I went like hell on the last stage and took some risks but I wanted those points badly. I hope I can now become the first Englishman to win the title.” Second placed Marcus Gronholm said: "I gave it my all but it wasn't enough."

Result after 23 stages:      hr min sec
 1 R Burns     GB  Subaru     4:34:00.0
 2 M Gronholm  Fin Peugeot        @ 6.5
 3 C Sainz     Sp  Ford        @ 2:09.2
 4 H Rovanpera Fin Toyota      @ 3:18.2
 5 F Delecour  Fr  Peugeot     @ 4:06.3
 6 M Martin    Est Toyota      @ 6:11.6
 7 F Loix      Bel Mitsubishi  @ 7:28.9
 8 A Schwarz   Ger Skoda       @ 7:47.4
 9 T G'meister Fin SEAT        @ 8:24.2
10 D Auriol    Fr  SEAT       @ 12:38.0

Retirements: J Kankkunen - stage 4, C McRae - stage 9,
T Makinen - stage 9, Eriksson - stage 14, Solberg - stage 19

DRIVER STANDINGS               Pts
1 R Burns      GB   Subaru      22
2 T Makinen    Fin  Mitsubishi  16
= M Gronholm   Fin  Peugeot     16
4 C Sainz      Sp   Ford        13
5 J Kankkunen  Fin  Subaru      11
6 C McRae      GB   Ford         4
= D Auriol     Fr   SEAT         4

1 Subaru         35 pts
2 Mitsubishi     20
3 Peugeot        20
4 Ford           17
5 SEAT            7
6 Skoda           5

The San Remo Rally, 12th event of this year's world championship celandar, has been put back one week. Originally scheduled for October 12-15, the event will instead be held from October 19-22 so as to avoid clashing with a local festival.

VAUXHALL RALLY OF WALES:- Mark Higgins took the lead of the rally on stage two and was never seriously challenged as he claimed victory. The Vauxhall driver suffered a puncture on stage seven, but lost only one minute and teammate Neil Wearden was unable to catch him. Finn Marko Ipatti had some brake problems on leg 1 and a puncture on leg 2, but otherwise reported no problems. Natalie Barratt came home in 17th overall despite a leaking differential reducing the car to two wheel drive.

Rally winner Mark Higgins commented: "It all went according to plan, I took it easy while it was icy but pushed a little harder just to show we could." Team mate Neil Wearden was equally happy with his second place. He said: "I'm still lacking pace note experience. I knew Mark would be quick as he knows both the pace notes and the stages better than I do. But I'm getting better all the time and learned a lot on this one. I'll turn the tables yet!"

RESULT after 11 stages:      hr min sec
 1 Mark Higgins    Vauxhall   2:48:43.0
 2 Neil Wearden    Vauxhall   2:50:42.9
 3 Marko Ipatti    Mitsubishi 2:51:52.5
 4 Mike Brown      Mitsubishi 2:52:15.0
 5 S Egglestone    Mitsubishi 2:52:49.1
 6 Gavin Cox       Mitsubishi 2:54:40.1
 7 Nik Elsmore     Mitsubishi 2:56:44.1
 8 Johan Kressner  Mitsubishi 2:58:23.3
 9 Dave Wood       Subaru     2:58:27.2
10 Mats Andersson  Proton     2:58:52.7

1 M Higgins     12
2 Wearden       10
3 Ipatti         8
4 Andersson      7
5 Pinker         6
6 Jukes          5

1 Vauxhall    12
2 Proton      10
3 Hyundai      8

1 Brown         12
2 Egglestone    10
3 Cox            8
4 Elsmore        7


World champion Mika Hakkinen will be looking to kickstart his season by securing a hat-trick of wins in Brazil. Hakkinen has won at Interlagos for the past two years. The McLaren star has not registered a point so far but was in the same position this time last year and still went on to retain his crown. He was leading the last race Down Under before being forced to retire because of a pneumatic valve system problem in the engine.

Early pacesetter Michael Schumacher has had a relaxed build-up to Sunday's race but could not escape from championship rival Mika Hakkinen. Schumacher took some time out in Rio de Janeiro with his wife and promptly bumped into the McLaren star. The pair chatted for a few minutes but there will be no love lost in the race. The German has the edge over the Finn after winning in Australia and he believes he has a car capable of taking the crown from Hakkinen.

Rubens Barrichello has never won a grand prix so a victory in front of his home fans on Sunday would be a dream come true. Barrichello was second behind team-mate Michael Schumacher in Australia and said: "If I could choose where to win my first race it would be in Brazil. It is special and emotional to be the first Brazilian to drive for Ferrari. I know that there will be a lot of pressure on me in Brazil and that the fans will want me to do well."

McLaren driver David Coulthard will be bidding to land an early birthday present by picking up his first points of the campaign. The Scot will be 29 on Monday and failed to earn a top-six finish in three of the first four races in 1999. "Every race that you tick off without a point makes it harder on yourself," said Coulthard. "I am still confident and looking forward to Brazil. There are still 16 more races left."

Jordan new boy Jarno Trulli is optimistic about his chances after a recent test session at Silverstone. The Italian, who did not finish in Australia, admitted: "I feel more confident in the car after the test. "I think I showed in Melbourne that I am able to do a a good job. The pressure is certainly on me and the team but I trust in myself. It is my best chance to get close to the top two teams. We are closer to Ferrari and McLaren than last season."

Eddie Irvine believes that reliability will be the key to Jaguar's hopes. "My qualifying performance in Australia showed the Jaguar R1 has a good turn of speed but it still needs to improve in terms of reliability," he confirmed. "Interlagos doles out a serious mechanical beating and will provide us with a stern test of how much progress we have made. I have heard they have resurfaced a lot of the circuit but I am not holding my breath."

Johnny Herbert finished fourth on his Formula One debut in Brazil back in 1989 and has equalled but not bettered his fourth place of that year. Jacarepagua was the host circuit then and Sunday's race will be the Jaguar driver's 10th Brazilian Grand Prix. He retired last year while running in seventh spot and said: "Obviously I do not want a repeat of Melbourne or indeed last year's race in Brazil. I enjoy racing at Interlagos as the atmosphere is incredible."

Jenson Button will be looking to finish the race at least after being denied a possible points finish on his Australia debut because of an engine blow-out. Button admitted: "I learned a great deal from Melbourne and I cannot wait to go racing again. I have heard a lot about Interlagos in that it is very bumpy and quite hilly. I have raced cars on anti-clockwise circuits but not a Formula One car, apart from our test in Kyalami that was plagued by horrendous weather."

Ralf Schumacher will be aiming to build on his third-place finish in Melboune in Sunday's race. Williams had been playing down their 2000 hopes but their recent test session at Silverstone went well. "I am looking forward to Interlagos. You must find a compromise between aerodynamical downforce, mechanical grip and top speed," said Schumacher. "This must be balanced against the two long straights, where cars need maximum speed and as little wing as possible."

Benetton will be hoping that the return of Flavio Briatore will help the team emulate the glory years of the mid 90s. The Italian has been installed as team director following Renault's $120m takeover of the team. He stated: "I am looking forward to the challenge and am happy to be back with the Benetton outfit. I want to make the team competitive again and I told Jean Todt of Ferrari last week that the battle is now starting again."

Some of the pressure has lifted off British American Racing after they claimed their first points in the opening race of 2000. The team finished pointless in their debut season last year and Ricardo Zonta missed his home race in Brazil after being hurt in a practice crash. Jacques Villeneuve conceded: "The result in Australia was great after the struggle of the last year. We have to build on this and try to keep the momentum going."

Jos Verstappen is hoping to have the chance to show what his Arrows car is capable of on Sunday. The Dutchman revealed: "We have had a couple of weeks to sort out some minor problems on the car and I think Brazil is where we can show our pace. I prefer this sort of circuit rather than street circuits. I am really looking forward to it and I think our car can perform well." Team-mate Pedro de la Rosa added: "We should be more competitive in Brazil."

Interlagos opened in 1940 and the circuit is 2.667 miles in length. Brazil is a hot track. Drivers can lose 1.5 litres of body fluid in a race. Interlagos is one of only two anti- clockwise tracks on the calendar. Imola is the other circuit. Mika Hakkinen clocked the fastest race lap in the 1999 grand prix with a time of one minute 18.448 seconds on lap 70. Only nine cars of the 21 starters finished the race.

CART:- Dario Franchitti will race in this weekend's CART FedEx Championship opener in Miami. He was still using crutches last week after suffering a fractured pelvis and brain contusions in a test session six weeks ago at the same Homestead track. The Scot has been passed fit after two days of testing and Team Kool Green Reynard team owner Barry Green said: "I am not surprised. "Dario is very determined in everything he does."

BRITISH GTs:- A Chevrolet Camaro Z28 will contest the Privilege Insurance British GT Championship this season. AC Automotive Engineering has spent more than a year building the car into a GT racer and hope to debut it at Thruxton this weekend.

NEWS:- British motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss has received his knighthood from Prince Charles in an investiture at Buckingham Palace.


F1:- Germany's EM.TV Merchandising have taken a 50% stake in Formula One by joining Bernie Ecclestone as co-owners in a cash and share deal worth $1.65bn. The Munich-based group has bought a 50% stake in SLEC, the company which owns Formula One motor racing activities via the takeover of Speed Investment Ltd. Formula One supremo Ecclestone owns the remaining 50% through a family trust. Ecclestone paved the way for a stock market flotation last year when he raised $1.4bn in the bond market.

CART:- Dario Franchitti plans to follow in the footsteps of Nigel Mansell this year and become only the second Briton to win the CART FedEx Championship. The season gets underway in Miami on Sunday where Franchitti had a serious crash while testing at the Homestead track last month. The Scot was only cleared to race after an exhaustive 138-lap session. "I was a little rusty. We just took our time and didn't put any pressure on ourselves," said Franchitti.

Mrch 26 Marlboro GP of Miami, Florida
Aprl 9  Bosch Spark Plug GP, Nazareth
Aprl 16 Toyota GP of Long Beach, California
Aprl 30 Telemar Rio 2000, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
May 13  Firestone Firehawk 500, Motegi, Japan
June 4  Milwaukee Mile 225, West Allis, Wisconsin
June 18 Tenneco Automotive GP of Detroit, Michigan
June 25 Budweiser/GI Joe's 200, Portland, Oregon
July 2  Medic Drug GP of Cleveland, Ohio
July 16 Molson Indy Toronto, Ontario
July 23 Michigan 500, Brooklyn, Michigan
July 30 Target GP of Chicago, Cicero, Illinois
Aug 13  Miller Lite 200, Lexington, Ohio
Aug 20  Road America 220, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
Sept 3  Molson Indy Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Sept 10 Honda GP of Monterey, Laguna Seca, California
Sept 17 Motorola 300, Madison, Illinois
Oct 1   Honda Indy 300, Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia
Oct 29  Marlboro 500, Fontana, California

TOYOTA ATLANTIC:- Dan Wheldon is ready for his Toyota Atlantic Championship debut this weekend. The 21-year-old English driver has been signed by Californian-based team PPI Motorsports to race a Jayhard Swift Toyota for the season. Wheldon, who last year won the US Formula Ford 2000 title, said: "The PPI Motorsports team has the hunger to do very, very well. We have the same goals. I plan to work hard, stay focused, learn as much as I can and be as consistent as possible."


Mika Hakkinen registered the fastest time in Friday's first practice after clocking one minute, 15.896 seconds. He was almost half a second ahead of Michael Schumacher with Hamminen's McLaren team-mate David Coulthard a further 0.7 seconds adrift. Rubens Barrichello, who was fastest in the morning in front of his home crowd, posted the fourth-fastest time. Eddie Irvine was 13th fastest after mechanical problems, Jenson Button was 20th and Johnny Herbert was 21st.

Britain's Jenson Button was satisfied with his first-ever practice session in Brazil despite coming 20th out of 22. He lost laps after engine trouble but said: "It's an excellent circuit, very technical and different to Melbourne. The corners are very flowing and it's very good. It's just a pity that I didn't do many laps due to the engine.”

“Today is more about finding out about the circuit so I'm pretty happy," added the Williams driver who failed to finish on his debut in Australia.

Friday practice times:
 1 M Hakkinen    Fin McLaren  1:15.896
 2 M Schumacher  Ger Ferrari  1:16.375
 3 D Coulthard   GB  McLaren  1:16.606
 4 R Barrichello Brz Ferrari  1:16.613
 5 P de la Rosa  Sp  Arrows   1:17.317
 6 J Alesi       Fr  Prost    1:17.468
 7 J Verstappen  Hol Arrows   1:17.641
 8 J Trulli      It  Jordan   1:17.462
 9 J Villeneuve  Can BAR      1:17.654
10 G Fisichella  It  Benetton 1:17.831
11 H-H Frentzen  Ger Jordan   1:17.920
12 M Salo        Fin Sauber   1:17.933
13 E Irvine      GB  Jaguar   1:17.971
14 R Schumacher  Ger Williams 1:18.024
15 M Gene        Sp  Minardi  1:18.248
16 G Mazzacane   Arg Minardi  1:18.280
17 R Zonta       Brz BAR      1:18.789
18 P Diniz       Brz Sauber   1:19.081
19 A Wurz        Aut Benetton 1:19.129
20 J Button      GB  Williams 1:19.303
21 J Herbert     GB  Jaguar   1:19.575
22 N Heidfield   Ger Prost    1:20.364

Testing times (Thu):             secs
 1 P Edwards     US             43.557
 2 D Hayes       GB             43.656
 3 J van d Ende  Hol            43.690
 4 M Santavirta  Fin            43.738
 5 B Besson      Fr             43.753
 6 A Simonsen    Den            43.767
 7 R Kerr        GB             43.808
 8 J Carlsen     Den            43.821
 9 T Serjala     Fin            43.836
10 T Mullen      GB             43.840

F.RENAULT:- Renault's new Formula Renault 2000 car stunned competitors by knocking two seconds off the old lap record in their first official test at Snetterton. British stars Dillon Battistini, Charles Hall and Mark McLoughlin are the latest drivers to sign up for the championship which starts on April 9.

BTCC (Croft):-
Testing times (Thu):         mins secs
 1 J Plato       GB  Vauxhall 1:21.180
 2 T Kristensen  Den Honda    1:21.320
 3 Y Muller      Fr  Vauxhall 1:21.654
 4 A Reid        GB  Ford     1:21.721
 5 M Neal        GB  Dynamics 1:22.044
 6 R Rydell      Swe Ford     1:22.074
 7 J Thompson    GB  Honda    1:22.102
 8 G Tarquini    It  Honda    1:22.845
 9 V Radermecker Bel Vauxhall 1:25.661
10 C Blair       GB  PRO      1:26.791


F3 (Thruxton):- South African teenage sensation Tomas Scheckter begins his assault on the championship which begins this weekend. The 12-race series kicks-off at the Hampshire circuit on which Scheckter has not had much experience. Scheckter, who will be driving for Stewart Racing, set the fastest time in the official test session at Donington Park last week. Brazilian Antonia Pizzonia was fastest in testing at Croft on Monday with Scheckter 3/10ths behind in third spot.

MGF CUP (Thruxton):- This weekend sees the first round of the 2000 ' MGF Cup' which is now entering its third year. The MGF Cup has attracted a line-up of 20 top drivers, including many who competed last year. Jamie Hunter is tipped to do well, but new to the event this year are British GT racer Neil Cunningham and Touring Car test driver Mark Ticehurst. Five other British venues will host the MGF Cup with Belgium's Spa circuit included in a total of 12 rounds.

NEWS:- PowerTour, the new BRDC-created motor sport show, is gearing up for its first race meeting this weekend. The event focuses on the British F3, British GT and National Saloon Championships with many innovations aimed at helping new audiences. The raceday programmes are also set to be different with a more lifestyle and feature-based content. Twelve dates are scheduled for the 2000 PowerTour calendar which culminates at Silverstone on 7/8 October.


Mika Hakkinen took pole position, just ahead of team-mate David Coulthard, after a bizarre qualifying session. The action was halted three times after advertising hoardings fell onto the track and then heavy rain meant that times could not be improved. The Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello took the second row positions, while Eddie Irvine had a good drive to take sixth. Jenson Button took an excellent ninth spot, while Johnny Herbert was 17th.

Mike Hakkinen took pole position but admitted that the delays caused by falling advertising hoardings had been a problem during qualifying. "It was disturbing," Hakkinen said. "The whole qualifying session was unusual. It was a bit of a disaster. But I am very happy that the reliability problems have been solved." Meanwhile Swiss team Sauber pulled out of the race after problems with their rear wing sent Mika Salo crashing into a tyre barrier during practice.

David Coulthard was not unhappy at taking second place on the grid behind Mika Hakkinen. "This is our normal qualifying position," he said. "I felt pretty good all this weekend." Of the problems with the advertising hoardings, the Scot said: "I still trust the circuit." Third-placed Michael Schumacher commented: "It does make me angry what happened. But I'm sure it was not done on purpose."

Jenson Button outqualified team-mate Ralf Schumacher in taking ninth place on the grid and declared afterwards: "I could have gone even quicker. I'm really delighted to be in the top 10, but I am sure I would have gone quicker if it had not rained. I was in sixth place when most of the drivers had done six or seven laps, and it would have been great to stay there. It will be good to start the race with so many good drivers around me. I am really looking forward to it now."

Qualifying times (Sat):
 1 M Hakkinen    Fin McLaren   1:14.111
 2 D Coulthard   GBz McLaren   1:14.285
 3 M Schumacher  Ger Ferrari   1:14.508
 4 R Barrichello Brz Ferrari   1:14.636
 5 G Fisichella  It  Benetton  1:15.375
 6 E Irvine      GB  Jaguar    1:15.425
 7 H-H Frentzen  Ger Jordan    1:15.455
 8 R Zonta       Brz BAR       1:15.484
 9 J Button      GB  Williams  1:15.490
10 J Villeneuve  Can BAR       1:15.515
11 R Schumacher  Ger Williams  1:15.561
12 J Trulli      It  Jordan    1:15.627
13 A Wurz        Aut Benetton  1:15.664
14 J Verstappen  Hol Arrows    1:15.704
15 J Alesi       Fr  Prost     1:15.715
16 P de la Rosa  Sp  Arrows    1:16.002
17 J Herbert     GB  Jaguar    1:16.250
18 M Gene        Sp  Minardi   1:16.380
19 N Heidfeld    Ger Prost     1:17.112
20 P Diniz       Brz Sauber    1:17.718
21 G Mazzacane   Arg Minardi   1:17.512
22 M Salo        Fin Sauber    1:18.703
Sauber have pulled out of Sunday's race

CART:- Former rookie of the year Tony Kanaan set the fastest time in practice for Sunday's Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami. Kanaa, whose primary car was damaged in a pit road crash earlier in the day, completed a lap on the 1.5-mile oval in 26.437 seconds in a back-up Mercedes. Christian Fittipaldi's Lola-Ford was second quickest for the day, followed by Patrick Carpentier's Reynard-Ford. Defending champion Juan Montoya was ninth while Scotland's Dario Franchitti was 19th.

The 2000 CART FedEx Championship gets underway at Sunday's Marlboro Grand Prix of Miami with a lot to live up to. The series ended the 20th century with arguably the most competitive season in CART's 21-year history. The season had a record 10 different race winners, 12 different pole sitters and the second-closest race in all-time Champ Car history at Michigan. Ultimately, Colombian Juan Montoya claimed the title on a tie-break - the youngest series champion ever.

As with any off-season, there have been plenty of changes from both a driver and equipment standpoint during the preceding five months. Gil de Ferran and Helio Castro-Neves have joined the revamped Marlboro Team Penske complete with Reynard chassis, Honda engine and Firestone tires. Robert Moreno, formally of Visteon Ford Reynard), is now with Patrick Racing and Tony Kanaan joins the newly formed Mo Nunn Racing. Six rookies debut in the 2000 season.

F3 (Thruxton):- South African teenage sensation Tomas Scheckter took pole position for the first round of the championship. Antonio Pizzonia took second spot, while Andy Priaulx moved up from 14th spot to third. Michael Bentwood took a best-ever fourth spot.

Leading qualifying times (Sat):
1 T Scheckter    Stewart      1:12.421
2 A Pizzonia     Manor        1:12.502
3 A Priaulx      Promatecme   1:12.514
4 M Bentwood     Fortec       1:12.742
5 M Davies       Promatecme   1:12.810
6 N Karthikeyan  Stewart      1:12.918

MGF CUP (Thruxton):- Alastair Lyall claimed pole position for opening race of ' MGF Cup' season. The 25 minute qualifying session saw Lyall produce the best time, 1.2 tenths of a second of team-mate Nick Carr with title favourite Jamie Hunter third.

Qualifying times (Fri):      min secs
1 A Lyall                    1:26.202
2 N Carr                     1:26.330
3 J Hunter                   1:26.512
4 D Mason                    1:27.275
5 N Cunningham               1:27.318

TOYOTA ATLANTIC:- Briton Dan Wheldon will start from the front row of the grid in his debut in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship at Homestead Miami Speedway in Florida. Wheldon was second fastest - just 0.24 seconds slower than pole position.

Result after six stages:  mins:secs
1 Ph'skirk/Evans MG Metro     43:08
2 Watson/L'ster  Escort Cos   43:25
3 Littler/M'bank Escord Cos   43:38
4 Bengry/F'brook Mitsubishi   43:59
5 Smith/Clarke   Escort Cos   43:59


Michael Schumacher triumphed in emphatic fashion to make it two wins out of two in 2000. He had moved up from third on the grid to first by lap two and when Mika Hakkinen retired he was never troubled. David Coulthard boosted McLaren by finishing second and Giancarlo Fisichella gave Benetton, who have been taken over by Renault, a third place. Jenson Button was just out of the points in seventh but Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert failed to finish.

Michael Schumacher admitted that a good start and Ferrari's pit-stop strategy helped him to claim another victory. He said: "I was able to catch Mika Hakkinen at the start and could have overtaken him straight away but he would not have been keen to let me by. It was quite entertaining. That type of battle does not happen very often. There was a change of strategy with pit stops and although we had a little problem later in the race I just took it very easy."

David Coulthard had an early birthday present by finishing second and picking up his first points of the campaign. The Scot, who was racing on the day before his 29th birthday, revealed: "I did not get my start quite right. I hesitated and lost ground. Also very early on I lost third gear so for the rest of the race was using fourth and upwards." His McLaren team-mate Mika Hakkinen did not finish the race and left the circuit without commenting.

Mika Hakkinen was hit by his second straight retirement when he had to cruise into the pits after 30 laps because of an engine problem. The world champion, who failed to finish in the opening race of 2000 in Australia, was leading the race from Michael Schumacher by over 12 seconds. Brazilian Rubens Barrichello went out on lap 27 and has finished only once in his home race. Smoke was seen coming from the engine of his Ferrari.

Michael Schumacher made a brilliant start and after the end of the first lap had taken the lead. The Ferrari star overtook David Coulthard, who had been second on the grid, and then surged past Mika Hakkinen at the start of lap two. Schumacher's Ferrari looked well-suited to the circuit and by the sixth lap he had a six-second lead over Hakkinen. His team-mate Rubens Barrichello was third at this stage but moved ahead of Hakkinen into second place on lap 15.

Williams rookie Jenson Button was delighted to secure his first Formula One finish in only his second race. The 20-year-old was just out of the points in seventh and enthused: "It is just getting better and better for me. I had an awful start. I went from ninth to 14th. It was difficult trying to cover the inside, outside and people coming through the middle." He made the move of the race when passing Jos Verstappen and added: "It was the highlight of the race for me."

Third-placed Giancarlo Fisichella has revealed that he felt he could lead Benetton to a place on the podium after finishing fifth in qualifying. "Yesterday I saw a possibility of getting on the podium," he said. His result was a boost to the team, who have been taken over by Renault, but the Italian did have problems early on. "It was hard to drive with so much fuel at the beginning, the steering was difficult, but after 20 laps we had a good performance," he conceded.

Ralf Schumacher finished in sixth spot and has now picked up points in the first two races of the year. The Williams driver said: "I had quite a bad start as my engine nearly died. After struggling to find a good set-up the race was quite hard. I did not expect to score some points in both the first two races of our learning year with BMW." Team boss Frank Williams claimed: "Personally I am thrilled to bits. Both cars finished strongly."

Jaguar driver Eddie Irvine went out after 20 laps and admitted that it was his own fault. He slid out of control at a tight right-hand corner and his car slammed into a barrier. "It was mainly my fault," he confirmed. "I was pushing too hard. I was sitting pretty at that point but was pushing too hard. The good thing is that we were going well considering the amount of fuel we were carrying."

Johnny Herbert is still looking for his first finish of the season after going out on lap 52 with a gearbox problem. The Jaguar driver admitted: "The handling of the car was very difficult, which is hard to understand. "I covered a lot of laps, which is encouraging, and the engine issue seems to be less of a problem. We are moving the right way but still need to finish. We are still learning about the new car and Eddie (Irvine) has shown that it can be competitive."

Rubens Barrichello was disappointed after his home race ended in retirement because of a hydraulics problem. "It is a real sin that it happened in front of my people in my home," said the Ferrari driver. Barrichello grew up in the shadow of the Interlagos circuit and he added: "Now we have to discuss what happened and just move forward." His team-mate Michael Schumacher won the race ` Ferrari's first Brazillian win since 1990.

Team chief Eddie Jordan was delighted with a fourth and fifth place after the team's less-than-impressive performance in qualifying. Heinz-Harald Frentzen was fourth and Jarno Trulli was just behind after they had qualified in seventh and 12th. Jordan commented: "It gives us five points and that is a little bit of a bonus. There was a lot of concern about our reliability. I think we made headway in testing at Silverstone last week."

Arrows pair Jos Verstappen and Pedro de la Rosa managed to claim eighth and ninth places in a race that had only 11 finishers but said they found it tough. "The first half of the race was unbelievably good and the second half was still good but I could not handle it," said Verstappen. "It was because I was totally gone. I was tired and everything hurt." De la Rosa revealed: "My race was spoiled being behind Johnny Herbert for 15 laps."

Result after 71 laps:        hr min sec
 1 M Schumacher  Ger Ferrari  1:31.35.2
 2 D Coulthard   GB  McLaren  1:31.39.5
 3 G Fisichella  It  Benetton 1:32.15.1
 4 H-H Frentzen  Ger Jordan   1:32.17.5
 5 J Trulli      It  Jordan   1:32.48.0
 6 R Schumacher  Ger Williams   one lap
 7 J Button      GB  Williams   one lap
 8 J Verstappen  Hol Arrows     one lap
 9 P de la Rosa  Sp  Arrows     one lap
10 R Zonta       Brz BAR       two laps
11 G Mazzacane   Arg Minardi   two laps

Did not finish:       laps completed
J Herbert     GB  Jaguar     51
M Gene        Sp  Minardi    31
M Hakkinen    Fin McLaren    30
R Barrichello Brz Ferrari    27
E Irvine      GB  Jaguar     20
J Villeneuve  Can BAR        16
J Alesi       Fr  Prost      11
N Heidfeld    Ger Prost       9
A Wurz        Aut Benetton    6

1 M Schumacher  Ger  Ferrari   20 pts
2 R Barrichello Brz  Ferrari    6
= D Coulthard   GB   McLaren    6
= G Fisichella  It   Benetton   6
5 R Schumacher  Ger  Williams   5
6 H-H Frentzen  Ger  Jordan     3
= J Villeneuve  Can  BAR        3
8 J Trulli      It   Jordan     2
9 R Zonta       Brz  BAR        1

1 Ferrari       26 pts
2 McLaren        6
= Benetton       6
4 Williams       5
= Jordan         5
6 BAR            4

CART (Homestead):- Gil de Ferran earned Team Penske their first pole in 50 races, in his first start for the team, as this year's championship prepared to get under way. The Brazilian clocked a best lap time of 25.942 seconds to push 1999 champion Juan Montoya into second place by just 0.006 seconds. Scotland's Dario Franchitti, who was just pipped to the title by Montoya, could only qualify in 22nd in 26.802. He was six places and 0.186 seconds behind England's Mark Blundell.

Saturday qualifying times:     secs
 1 G de Ferran  Brz Honda     25.942
 2 J Montoya    Col Honda     25.948
 3 A Fernandez  Mex Ford      26.042
 4 A Tagliani   Can Ford      26.114
 5 K Brack      Swe Ford      26.146
 6 M Andretti   US  Ford      26.175
 7 R Moreno     Brz Ford      26.236
 8 H Castro-N   Brz Honda     26.268
 9 C Fittipaldi Brz Ford      26.275
10 J Vasser     US  Toyota    26.283
16 M Blundell   GB  Mercedes  26.616
22 D Franchitti GB  Honda     26.802

F3 (Thruxton):- Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia scored victory in his maiden Formula 3 race held in soaking conditions. Pizzonia, who had started from second place on the grid, had to hold off a determined challenge from Tomas Scheckter in the closing stages though. The South African finished runner-up, while Narain Karthikeyan's Stewart came in third. In the Scholarship class, Gary Paffett survived a clash with Michael Bentwood on the final corner to claim victory.

MGF CUP (Thruxton):- Alastair Lyall fought off a series of strong challenges to win the race ahead of Jamie Hunter on a treacherous track. Hunter had weaved his way through the field but a red flag for a car blocking the track denied him the chance of a last lap battle with Lyall.

Race result (Sun):           min secs
1 A Lyall                   17:09.304
2 J Hunter                  17:10.027
3 D Mason                   17:10.887
4 N Carr                    17:18.113
5 V Martin                  17:20.100

NATIONAL SALOONS (Thruxton):- Dan Eaves claimed victory in the opening round. The Peugeot driver went ahead of early leader Mark Lemmer on the fifth lap and went on to win convincingly. Lemmer was then sidelined by clutch problems and Matt Kelly claimed second despite a misfire.

Result (Sun):
1 D Eaves        Peugeot
2 N Carr         Nissan
3 J Hunter       Honda
4 D Mason        Peugeot
5 N Cunningham   Ford

BRITISH GTs (Thruxton):- David Warnock and Rob Schirle held off a strong challenge from Neil Cunningham and Stephen Day in an absorbing race to win the opening round. Warnock had pulled away after early leader Ian McKellar was forced out but Cunningham battled hard, finishing just half a second back. Chirs Ellis and Ian Astley survived an early clash to come home third.

Result (Sun):               mins:secs
1 Schirle/Warnock Lister    60:54.815
2 Cunningham/Day  Chrysler  60:55.392
3 Ellis/Astley    Lotus     61:29.730

TOYOTA ATLANTIC:- Briton Dan Wheldon won the first CART Toyota Atlantic Championship race of his career at the Homestead Miami Speedway in Florida. The 21-year-old traded the lead with polesitter Buddy Rice throughout the 50-lap race but stayed ahead after 45 laps to win by 0.936-of-a-second.

F.NIPPON:- Ralph Firman started from pole in the opening round of the Japanese Formula Nippon series. The 24-year-old crashed out on lap four of the race though, held in heavy rain.


F1:- McLaren's appeal following the disqualification of David Coulthard in the Brazilian Grand Prix will be heard next Monday in Paris. A decision is expected the day after by the appeals panel, which is expected to comprise at least three jurors. Coulthard hopes for leniency but told The Express that it was not certain. "It's one of those things that rules are rules," he said. "Sometimes, though, it feels like the regulations just don't make sense."

F.FORD:- The Norfolk-based Van Diemen team have signed three young drivers to contest this season's Slick 50 Formula Ford Zetec Championship. Swede Robert Dahlgren and Winter Championship race winner Peter Gray are joined by 19-year-old Australian James Courtney in the line-up.


F1:- Jenson Button said he has derived little satisfaction from provisionally being the youngest driver ever to score a point in Formula One. Button was promoted to sixth after David Coulthard was disqualifed in Brazil and will keep the point if McLaren's appeal fails next week. "I would rather win it fair and square on the track," Button said. "You want to earn any success through your driving skills, not because of someone else's misfortune."

Formula One's ruling body the FIA will meet organisers of the Brazilian Grand Prix in Paris on April 6 after the fiasco during qualifying last Saturday. Advertising hoardings fell on to the Interlagos circuit. One of the hoardings hit Jean Alesi's Prost and Sauber withdrew from the race after the wings of their cars came loose on the undulating track. Former world champion Jackie Stewart said resurfacing was to blame for a number of incidents in Brazil.

1 M Schumacher  Ger  Ferrari   20 pts
2 G Fisichella  It   Benetton   8
3 R Barrichello Brz  Ferrari    6
= R Schumacher  Ger  Williams   6
5 H-H Frentzen  Ger  Jordan     4
6 J Villeneuve  Can  BAR        3
= J Trulli      It   Jordan     3
8 R Zonta       Brz  BAR        1
= J Button      GB   Williams   1

1 Ferrari       26 pts
2 Benetton       8
3 Jordan         7
4 Williams       7
5 BAR            4

CATALUNYA RALLY:- Colin McRae has said that he could quit Ford unless results improve before the end of the season. The Briton has retired from 11 of his last 12 events and admitted: "I have forgotten what a podium looks like. I am really motivated to win the title. I am happy with the management but upset by our lack of finishes. I hope Ford can provide me with the machinery with which to win the world title but if they do not progress I will obviously look for another car."

The world championship drivers visit Spain in round five of the series from Friday to Sunday under two weeks after the Rally of Portugal. It is the first pure asphalt event of the year and the first and final legs are in the Girona region, while the total route is 1,874km. Drivers head to Tarragona for day two and will have almost 17 hours driving to take them up to 926km overall. It is the longest day in a European world championship rally since 1983.

Richard Burns will be hoping that the Subaru team's 12 days of testing for the Catalunya Rally will help him to increase his lead in the championship. The Oxford-based star became the first Englishman to lead the series after triumphing in the Rally of Portugal. His Subaru Impreza WRC2000 made a successful debut in Portugal and the team have been trying out a new type of asphalt tyre with Pirelli. The car now has lowered suspension and more powerful water-cooled brakes.

Britain's Richard Burns has admitted that he is more optimistic about his chances after winning the Rally of Portugal earlier this month. "I am still on a high after Portugal," said Burns, who is six points clear of Tommi Makinen and Marcus Gronholm. "The WRC2000 was fantastic and the whole performance has given me a great deal of confidence for this event. I have got a bit of a head start but there is still a long way to go if I am going to be world champion this year."

Tommi Makinen will be going all out to regain the lead in the world championship after losing his advantage to Richard Burns. Makinen knows the event well because the Catalunya Rally is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a round of the world championship. It has twice won the rally of the year award - in 1996 and 1997. The rally is divided into three legs and each one starts and finishes in the holiday resort of Lloret de Mar.

Colin McRae won the Catalunya Rally in 1996 and is targeting another triumph in one of his favourite events. The Scot confirmed: "This rally features quite highly on my favourites because of the nature of the stages. The stages to the north are quite slippery, while those further south on the second leg are more abrasive. It is not a technically difficult event like Corsica because the corners are flowing and quite forgiving. You can attack a bit harder than normal."

Carlos Sainz and co-driver Luis Moya will be backed by the fanatical Spanish fans on their home round. It will be the duo's first asphalt event in the Ford Focus but Sainz won the Catalunya Rally in 1992 and 1995. Sainz commented: "We are making small improvements to the Focus all the time but as a newcomer I am still trying to learn about the car. It is fantastic to have all the people cheering me on and I hope they bring me better luck this year."

Subaru's Juha Kankkunen is aiming to get his title bid back on track in the Catalunya Rally, which runs from Friday to Sunday. The Finn admitted: "Portugal was not one of my best performances so let's just say that I am looking forward to setting things straight. The testing hsa been good. The technology on the latest car means it can do incredible things. I will be trying my best for a good result here."

Didier Auriol holds the stage record for the most challenging section of the rally and SEAT are hoping he will be the key to success. In 1999, he and Denis Giraudet set a time of 29 minutes, 05.3 seconds over the longest stage, which will be run twice for the first time this year. Auriol revealed: "This is a rally which grows on you. When I first did it in 1992 I did not like it so much. Now things are different. I like it and have achieved some good results."

Skoda driver Luis Climent will be happy with a top-10 finish in Spain. Climent was the top non-works finisher in ninth place overall last season and he recently had an encouraging test in Girona and Tarragona with the Octavia. "With all seven official factory teams contesting this year's event the entry is much stronger," said Climent. "All the top drivers know these stages well so my local knowledge counts for little but as a Spanish driver I do get roared on by the crowd."

30.03.2000 - F1

Michelin has announced it will supply Jaguar Racing with tyres from the 2001 Formula One season. "We are very proud to be associated with a company with such a tradition of sporting excellence," said chairman of Jaguar Racing Neil Ressler. BAR have announced that Robert Synge has stepped down as team manager. Synge will stay with the team while Ron Meadows takes over his position.

Germany's Ralf Schumacher posted the fastest time in practice, three weeks before the British Grand Prix:

Practice times (Thur):      mins secs
1 R Schumacher Ger  Williams 1:25.984
2 O Panis      Fr   McLaren  1:26.408
3 E Irvine     Brz  Jaguar   1:26.523
4 P de Rosa    Sp   Arrows   1:27.158
5 H-H Frentzen Ger  Jordan   1:27.307
6 M Salo       Fin  Sauber   1:27.363
7 J Villeneuve Can  BAR      1:27.381
8 R Zonta      Brz  BAR      1:27.413
9 J Alesi      Fr   Prost    1:28.056