2000 November Motorsport News


F1:- Toyota is buying a majority stake in a grand prix circuit located near Mount Fuji in central Japan. The group is aiming to participate in Formula One in 2002 and is also hoping that a grand prix will eventually be staged at its new circuit.

Tyre makers Michelin, returning to Formula One next season, are concerned about supplying the Prost team who have an engine deal with Ferrari. World Champions Ferrari will continue with Bridgestone tyres in 2001.

F3000 (Barcelona):-
Wednesday's leading times:   mins secs
 1 E Bernoldi    Red Bull     1:31.929
 2 V Hooydonk    Colini       1:32.578
 3 C Albers      Euro Arrows  1:33.001
 4 D Manning     Arden Team   1:33.044
 5 P Preisacher  Red Bull     1:33.056
 6 T Enge        Nordic Rac   1:33.220
 7 D Saelens     D2 Playlife  1:33.267
 8 A Piccini     Coloni       1:33.326
 9 R Sperafico   Petrobas     1:33.439
10 M Haberfeld   Petrobas     1:33.453

Wednesday's leading testing times:
1 P Harvey  GB                 45.60
2 R Lofting GB                 +0.02
3 C Hyman   SA                 +0.24
4 D Joseph  GB                 +0.28
5 N Light   GB                 +0.40
6 D Anley   GB                 +0.44


SPORTSCARS:- Bentley are set to return to Le Mans after almost 50 years' absence, race organisers have announced. The British firm will reportedly take part in the historic 24-hour race on June 16-17, 2001. Bentley, according to organisers the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, will enter two closed-roof prototype cars designed by engineer Richard Lloyd. They will be fitted with the same V8 Audi engines which powered the German firm to victory this summer.

F.RENAULT:- Motaworld Racing's Mark McLoughlin aims to build on his points lead in the second round of the Formula Renault 2000 Winter Championship on Saturday. The 20-year-old faces competition from a multi-national field of 22 in the race at Silverstone.

RENAULT CLIO:- Marc Nordon holds a three-point lead over Colin Turkington as the Clio Renaultsport Winter Championship heads to Silverstone on Saturday. Chasing them is round one winner, Tom Ferrier and Julian Rouse.

04.11.2000 - F.FORD WINTER SERIES (Silverstone)

Richard Goransson converted pole position into victory, his first Formula Ford Zetec win. He enjoyed an early battle with Robert Bell, who had to settle for third behind Adam Carroll.

Result (Saturday):           mins secs
1 R Goransson                20:02.123
2 A Carroll                  20:07.053
3 R Bell                     20:08.982
4 R Sharp                    20:09.945
5 D Patrick                  20:11.441
6 G Turkington               20:12.321

06.11.2000 - F1

Michael Schumacher is unlikely to test for Ferrari until the New Year because of surgery to remove a pin from the leg he broke at Silverstone last year. A Ferrari spokeswoman said that the world champion was expected to go into hospital some time in November but could not say exactly when it would be. "I don't think he will test before the New Year," the spokeswoman said. Ferrari expect to test in December when a month-long ban on all F1 testing ends, but have yet to fix dates.

World champion Michael Schumacher will auction off one of his red Ferrari outfits in aid of autism sufferers next month, it has been reported. The auction will take place on December 18 along with the sale of specialist motoring memorabilia in Paris. Schumacher is hoping to raise far more than the outfits' estimated $15,000 value for a French charity that works with sufferers of the condition. There are some 43,400 cases in France, with an estimated 15,000 aged under 20.


F1:- Peter Sauber has confirmed he hopes to sign Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen to drive for his team next year. "We would like Kimi Raikkonen to drive our second car next to (Germany's) Nick Heidfeld," Sauber said. "When we get the confirmation of the super licence by the FIA, the public and media will be informed." Raikkonen, 21, is the British Formula Renault champion but has had just 23 car races to date. Finnish TV reported that he had already signed a contract.

World champion Michael Schumacher has successfully had surgery to remove a pin from the leg he broke at Silverstone last year. The German daily Bild reported that the the operation was performed in Geneva and although Ferrari did not confirm the report, a statement will follow. Schumacher, Ferrari's first champion in 21 years, is now expected to rest for a couple of weeks. It is unlikely that he will do any testing before January.

RALLY AUSTRALIA:- The World Championship moves on to Australia from Thursday to Sunday and the driver and manufacturer title races are both still wide open. Championship leader Marcus Gronholm will run first in the opening leg. And the leader after the penultimate stage of the previous leg will go first in the second and third legs. Gronholm, Richard Burns, Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz are realistically gunning for the title, while Tommi Makinen has a mathematical chance.

Britain's Richard Burns will be bidding to get his title bid back on track by reacapturing his early-season form. His push for the drivers' crown has faltered in recent rallies but he won in Australia last year and it is one of his favourite rounds. The Subaru star has also had two top five finishes in the event. Burns is quick on gravel and his judgement of the local conditions will mean that he is one of the favourites Down Under.

Colin McRae will be hoping that he can mark his 100th World Championship rally with a victory. "The roads are covered in loose gravel for the first cars but their passage brushes the surface clear to the advantage of those behind," said McRae. "On day one being behind Richard Burns and Marcus Gronholm will benefit us. Conditions are worse on the final day and tactically the lower down the order a driver lies going into the last leg, without a big gap, the better."

Title hopeful Colin McRae has insisted that he is much fitter than in the previous round in Sanremo. McRae is still recovering from the broken cheekbone and bruised lung that he suffered in an accident in Corsica. Ahead of the penultimate rally in the 14-round championship, the Scot stated: "Time is a great healer and that is what the injuries really need. My surgeon has told me not to do much fitness training for fear of raising the pressure around the sinus area."

Carlos Sainz is looking forward to a return to gravel because he won the last round on that surface in Cyprus. The Spaniard has been a runner-up three times in Australia and he admitted: "The roads in Cyprus are rough and not like the stages in Australia. But, psychologically, I am happy to be back on gravel again. Only two rounds remain and we have reached the point where we are looking for victories only. The Focus is capable of that."

Didier Auriol has contested the Australian event eight times and has never finished outside the top three. The SEAT star confirmed: "I like the Rally Australia a lot and always set good times there. Last year I was leading when I went off the road and hit a tree and this year I will also try to be very fast. The stages are very fast, the roads are quite narrow and the surface is like driving on ball bearings and there is not a lot of grip."

The Hyundai Castrol team will contest the penultimate round of the series looking to repeat previous successes. Kenneth Eriksson won the event in 1995 and the Formula Two category in 1999, while Alister McRae won the Formula Two category in 1998. McRae said: "It feels good to be getting back on to gravel after two very frustrating tarmac events. Our road position, certainly on the first day, and the car's balance should help us set some good times."

SPORTSCARS:- Malaysia will host one leg of next year's Asia-Pacific Le Mans endurance race series. The event is set to be held at the Sepang International Circuit on November 9-11 2001. Cars in the Asia-Pacific series, which takes place in the US, Australia, Canada and Europe, race for six hours or 12 hours.

F3000 (Estoril):- Britain's Darren Manning was fourth fastest on the second day of official F3000 testing in Portugal. Manning clocked a best time of 1:29.32 but had a gear problem in the afternoon which limited his testing time.

Leading testing times (Wed):
                     min secs
1 E Bernoldi          1:29.09
2 T Enge              1:29.17
3 P Freisacher        1:29.28
4 D Manning           1:29.32
5 J Wilson            1:29.38
6 S Bordais           1:29.46

WINTER F.PALMER AUDI:- American Joey Hand was the quickest driver in testing, ahead of 17-year-old Czech driver Jaroslav Janis. Rob Huff was the quickest British driver in fourth spot in a session badly affected by rain.

Testing times (Wednesday):   mins secs
1 J Hand                      1:12.888
2 J Janis                      @ 1.532
3 P Giebler                    @ 1.815
4 R Huff                       @ 2.037
5 G M Gabbiani                 @ 2.283
6 P Walsh                      @ 2.309


F1:- Michael Schumacher is recuperating at home in Switzerland after being discharged from hospital following surgery to remove a pin from his leg. The world champion had a 30cm pin inserted after he broke his right leg in last year's British Grand Prix and it was taken out in Paris on Wednesday. He said: "I feel fine after the operation. I am confident that I will soon be mobile again. I will be in top form when it is time to start work again."

RALLY AUSTRALIA:- Colin McRae's bid to win the World Championship looks to be all but over after he was forced to retire on the sixth stage. The Scot was lying in fifth place when the engine of his Ford Focus lost oil pressure after the midpoint of the Flynns Short stage. "In championship terms, it's not looking too good for us, so we must wait and see what happens," said McRae. "It is out of my hands. Ideally, we need Marcus Gronholm not to score."

Finland's Juha Kankkunen set a fast pace to establish a 9.6 second lead at the end of the second day. He was ahead of Frenchman Francois Delecour, with another Finn, reigning world champion Tommi Makinen, in third. World championship challenger Richard Burns was fourth, with current leader Marcus Gronholm just behind him. "I was surprised to be so fast, because from the inside of the car it felt as if we were spinning the wheels all the time," Gronholm said.

Carlos Sainz was disqualified from the rally after he was deemed guilty of illegally stopping to deliberately lose time on the ninth stage. A number of cars slowed down towards the end of the stage to drop down the order and avoid being first on the dirty gravel road on Saturday. An unhappy Sainz said: "We made an error of judgment which has resulted in our exclusion. I feel a bit embarrassed, as well as disappointed," he added.

Leaderboard after 10 stages (End Day 2)
                             hr min sec
 1 J Kankkunen Fin Subaru     1:27.17.2
 2 F Delecour  Fr  Peugeot       @  9.6
 3 T Makinen   Fin Mitsubishi    @ 13.7
 4 R Burns     GB  Subaru        @ 21.5
 5 M Gronholm  Fin Peugeot       @ 23.5
 6 T Laukkanen Fin Ford          @ 35.0
 7 T G'meister Fin SEAT          @ 43.8
 8 P Bourne    NZ  Subaru      @ 1.01.9
 9 K Eriksson  Swe Hyundai     @ 1.07.5
10 A McRae     GB  Hyundai     @ 1.49.6


F1:- Formula 3000 driver Fernando Alonso has been linked with a Formula One move to Ferrari but he has played down reports that such a move is imminent. The Spaniard, who has a five-year contract to test for Minardi, has said that several teams have spoken to him. He told Spain's Marca newspaper: "There has been contact with Ferrari but at the moment there is nothing." Ferrari are believed to be looking at Alonso as a back-up test driver or with a view to loaning him to Prost.

RALLY AUSTRALIA:- Tommi Makinen faces a nervous wait until Monday after the results of the event were put on hold by the FIA. Makinen had finished first ahead of Marcus Gronholm and Richard Burns but the turbocharger on his Mitsubishi was taken for inspection by the FIA. The sport's governing body want to check the legality of the boost unit. If the victory is confirmed it will make little difference to Makinen's title chances as he is 13 points adrift of Championship leader Gronholm.

Final result (Sun):          hr min sec
 1 T Makinen   Fin Mitsubishi 3:43.51.7
 2 M Gronholm  Fin Peugeot    3:43.57.2
 3 R Burns     GB  Subaru     3:43.59.9
 4 F Delecour  Fr  Peugeot    3:45.30.1
 5 K Eriksson  Swe Hyundai    3:46.17.8
 6 T Laukkanen Fin Ford       3:46.28.1
 7 T G'meister Fin SEAT       3:46.46.5
 8 P Bourne    NZ  Subaru     3:48.30.7
 9 G Panizzi   Fr  Peugeot    3:51.31.3
10 D Auriol    Fr  SEAT       3:51.51.8

DRIVER STANDINGS               Pts
1 M Gronholm   Fin  Peugeot     55
2 R Burns      GB   Subaru      48
3 C McRae      GB   Ford        43
= C Sainz      Sp   Ford        43
5 T Makinen    Fin  Mitsubishi  42
6 F Delecour   Fr   Peugeot     22

1 Peugeot        99 pts
2 Ford           88
3 Subaru         74
4 Mitsubishi     49
5 SEAT            9
6 Skoda           8

13.11.2000 - RALLY AUSTRALIA

Tommi Makinen has had his win taken away after his turbocharger was found to not conform with specifications. Makinen finished first ahead of Marcus Gronholm and Richard Burns but the turbocharger on his Mitsubishi was taken for inspection by the FIA. Officials said it was an honest mistake by Mitsubishi and no further action would be taken against driver or team. The disqualification means Gronholm is almost certain to win the championship ahead of Englishman Richard Burns.

Britain's Richard Burns says the decision to disqualify Tommi Makinen from the event has practically cost him the chance of winning the world title. Marcus Gronholm extended his lead in the drivers championship to nine points after Makinen's exclusion with just the Rally of Great Britain remaining. Burns said: "The decision to exclude Tommi has made it even harder for me. The championship remains a possibility, although that is now not just down to me winning alone."

1 M Gronholm   Fin  Peugeot     59
2 R Burns      GB   Subaru      50
3 C McRae      GB   Ford        43
= C Sainz      Sp   Ford        43
5 T Makinen    Fin  Mitsubishi  32
6 G Panizzi    Fr   Peugeot     21

1 Peugeot       104 pts *
2 Ford           88
3 Subaru         76
4 Mitsubishi     39
5 SEAT            9
6 Skoda           8
* win Manufacturers Championship

14.11.2000 - F1

Mark Webber has been signed up as a test driver by Benetton for 2001. As part of the agreement, the 24-year-old will accompany his testing duties with a Formula 3000 seat. The Australian was third in the series for Eurobet Arrows last season, was the highest-placed rookie and had his maiden win at Silverstone. Benetton managing director Flavio Briatore said: "When Webber tested the B200 this year we were impressed by his attitude and skill."

Narain Karthikeyan will have a test with Jaguar at Silverstone on December 1, becoming the first Indian to drive a Formula One car.


F1:- Minardi chief executive Gabriele Rumi has insisted that the team still has a future in the sport. Doubts have been raised over the team's status because they are still without an engine supplier and major sponsor for the 2001 campaign. Rumi resigned as chairman in September but was forced to retake control because of the team's problems. He said: "Minardi are not yet dead. I hope to be able to announce some positive developments next week."

Provisional dates for tour, which will be headlined by the British Formula Three and British GT Championships:
Apr 1   Silverstone (international)
Apr 15  Donington Park (GP)
Apr 29  Snetterton
May 7   Oulton Park (international)
May 28  Croft
Jun 10  Knockhill
Jun 24  Castle Combe
Jul 22  Donington Park (GP)
Aug 19  tba
Sep 2   Thruxton
Sep 16  Brands Hatch (GP)
Sep 29  Silverstone (international) night race


MACAU GUIA RACE:- A spectator was killed when a Renault crashed through the barriers at Macau's Guia circuit during the warm-up session for the touring car race. Two other members of the public were hurt when the car, driven by Dutchman Frans Verschuur, suffered suspected brake failure as he entered Lisboa. It ploughed into several tyre barriers before hitting a parked car and then continued on before hitting a truck. Renault Dealer Team Holland pulled out of the race as a mark of respect.

F3:- Home driver Andre Couto won one race and was second in the other on a packed day of racing in Macau. Couto was just beaten by German Piere Kaffer in the opening race on the Guia circuit but held off Italy's Paulo Montin to win the second. "I feel really, really happy," Couto said. "This is a great result. It was difficult to achieve this and it is just great. I was leading with Paulo behind me and concentrated on making no mistakes."

Race two result after 15 laps (Sun):
                        mins secs
 1 A Couto      Mac     39:48.758
 2 P Montin     It      39:49.869
 3 R Fukuda     Jpn     39:52.762
 4 P Kaffer     Ger     39:53.410
 5 E Toccacelo  It      39:54.831
 6 T Scheckter  SA      39:55.506
 7 B Collins    GB      39:55.808
 8 A Priaulx    GB      39:56.224
 9 T Monteiro   Por     39:57.920
10 P Friesacher Aut     39:58.161

F.RENAULT (Pembrey):- Mark McLoughlin wrapped up the winter championship after points leader Richard Antinucci crashed out of the final round. McLoughlin won the penultimate round only to be docked 20 seconds for a safety car infringement. That handed Antinucci the win and the lead in the title race but when the American crashed out in the last race, all the Briton needed was a third spot. Final points: McLoughlin 33; Antinucci 32; Iglesias 23; Mussi/del Monte 22.

ELF CLIO RENAULTSPORT:- Marc Nordon sealed the winter series ahead of Tom Ferrier after a double triumph in Pembrey. Bob Smith finished in third place overall after securing third and fourth-place finishes. Mark Davies also made an impact in the wet conditions to take third place. Final points: Nordon 54; Ferrier 42; Smith 26; Turkington 24; Rouse 23; Baker 19.

F.PALMER AUDI (Brands Hatch):- American Phil Giebler won the winter series ahead of Robert Huff and Jaroslav Janis after finishing second and first in the final two races.

Round three result (Sun):
1 J Janis     Cz     14:04.079
2 P Giebler   US       @ 1.697
3 P Walsh     Ire      @ 3.921
4 R Jenkinson GB       @ 7.729

Round four result (Sun):
1 P Giebler   US     10:24.729
2 J Janis     Cz       @ 0.688
3 R Huff      GB       @ 4.340
4 P Walsh     Ire      @ 5.812


F1:- Former Formula One driver Johnny Herbert is still undergoing treatment after injuring his knee in the Malaysian Grand Prix last month. "Johnny is receiving physiotherapy at the moment and will be up and running soon," said his manager Mark Perkins. The British driver suffered severe bruising when he crashed into a tyre wall at the Sepang circuit. Herbert left F1 after 161 Grand Prix and will turn his attentions to the Champ Car series in the United States.

Minardi's Marc Gene has decided to join Williams as a test driver for the 2001 World Championship season. The Spaniard has signed a one-year deal with an option and will also act as their reserve race driver. Gene began his Formula One career in 1999 after an impresive season in which he won the Formula Nissan Championship and was sixth in the 1999 European GP. He will make his debut for his new team in Jerez on December 5 alongside Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya.

RALLYING:- Bruno Thiry has agreed to join Skoda for next season's World Championship. The Belgian, who will be joined by his regular co-driver Stephane Prevot, will enter 12 events. Thiry guested for Skoda in last year's British Rally and said: "I'm very happy to be returning to the team and hope to help them make further progress." Skoda's head of motor sport, Pavel Janeba said: "We are thrilled to be signing Bruno. He is one of the world's top drivers."


F1:- Spanish teenager Fernando Alonso has not yet signed a deal with Benetton as had been reported, his spokesman has told a Spanish newspaper. Several teams have been in the hunt for the youngster, who is currently signed to the under-threat Minardi team. "There has been a lot of talk but he wants to see what happens as his priority is the team," Adrian Campos told the As newspaper. Alonson says Ferrari are one of the teams to asked him about his future.

PARIS-DAKAR RALLY:- The Paris-Dakar Rally will return to its geographical roots in 2001 when the 10,000km trek starts in Paris on New Year's Day. This year's event saw competitors airlifted from Niger to Libya because of protests by Islamic fundamentalists. 111 cars, 130 motorbikes and 34 trucks will compete over the 20 stages in seven countries.

RALLY OF GREAT BRITAIN:- The Rally of Great Britain, which is scheduled to run from Thursday to Sunday, will be based entirely in Wales for the first time. And the traditional opening-day stages around stately homes and motor sport circuits have been dropped. Forest stages will form the basis of the rally with the only exception being the purpose-built, super special stage in the docks area of Cardiff. It will open the round on Thursday and be repeated on Saturday.

The recent wet weather in Wales means that the conditions could be uncertain. The roads are likely to be muddy but the quick-draining areas will produce a harder surface and cold temperatures may lead to ice and snow. The first full day of competition on Friday takes place in the southern forests of central Wales. Saturday's second leg is contained within the mountains and valleys of the south and the final day heads west to Brechfa Forest before going to Cardiff.

The final round of the championship will result in a new world champion, whether it is favourite Marcus Gronholm or Britain's Richard Burns. To be assured of the title, Gronholm has to finish sixth or better even if Burns wins the race for Subaru. Burns hopes to make it a hat-trick of British wins but the outcome of the championship may be out of his control. In addition, Gronholm and the Peugeot team will be keen to secure the double of drivers and manufacturers' titles.

Briton Richard Burns will be going all out for victory as he bids to claim the drivers' championship. "The Rally of Great Britain is one of my favourite events and I have a clear objective for this year - to win - and I know I can do it," said Burns. "Whatever happens to Marcus Gronholm is out of my hands and that takes a lot of the championship pressure off. I am going to concentrate on beating the other drivers like Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz, who should be quick."

If Marcus Gronholm and Richard Burns finish on the same number of points in the driver standings the Briton would secure the title. That would be because the contest would then be decided on the highest finishing positions during the season. Burns hopes that the home support will help his cause. "I get loads of encouragement from the spectators on the route," commented Burns. "I hope to give them something to cheer about."

Colin McRae and team-mate Carlos Sainz will be bidding to secure second spot in the manufacturer standings for Ford. And although the duo are out of the running for the World Championship drivers' crown they are still in the race for second place in that battle. Thirty-two-year-old Scot McRae has a good record on his home event, with three victories in all. Sainz has triumphed twice on British turf, with the 1990 and 1992 wins accompanying his world title successes.

Former world champion Colin McRae is determined to end the 2000 campaign on a high note. The Ford star confirmed: "We will be trying as hard as we can to end the year with a victory. It is disappointing to be out of the running for the drivers' and manufacturers' titles but second is still there for the taking in both. We would like to finish the season on a high note and set ourselves up for another title challenge next season."

Home advantage could boost Colin McRae's chances of claiming his fourth Rally of Great Britain victory. "I spent my early years in the sport competing in the British forests so home advantage is a factor but the big thing is the fans' support," he said. "It is a real boost to see all the flags and banners and the fans' support will again provide a big spur for myself and co-driver Nicky Grist. It will even more special for Nicky, competing in front of fellow Welshmen."

Carlos Sainz has mixed memories of the Rally of Great Britain. He has won the event twice but also lost the championship on the final stage in 1998. The Spaniard revealed: "On the whole it is a rally I like. The conditions are unpredictable, the stages are quite long and it is demanding for the drivers. Now there is no pressure I can drive as hard as possible from the start."

Ford will be entering a third car, driven by Tapio Laukkanen, in the 14th and final round of the series. Laukkanen is looking foward to the event after scoring his first World Championship points by finishing fifth in Australia earlier this month. Former British rally champion Laukkanen admitted: "I am still learning how to drive a world rally car. I made a big step forward in Australia and my target is to finish in the points again."

SEAT Sport will run four Cordoba WRC E3s for the final round of the 2000 World Rally Championship. The world rally team will run Didier Auriol and Toni Gardemeister, while the test team will look after Harri Rovanpera and Gwyndaf Evans. Auriol's best British result was a fifth place in 1990 but Rovanpera has had more success in the event. He won the two-litre Cup in 1996 and 1997 and scored the Cordoba WRC's first World Championship point in 1998.

Didier Auriol has admitted that the British round of the World Championship is not a rally he relishes. The SEAT driver confirmed: "It is not one of my favourite rallies. I do not know why. There is no particular reason for it. I set good stage times some years ago when I was still in the fight for the world title but my record in the UK is not as good as in other rounds. I will try to finish in the points but I do not think it will be possible."

Skoda Motorsport will go into round 14 of the World Championship on a high after Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer won the recent Semperit Rally. The event was a major round of the European and Austrian Championships. And team manager Pavel Janeba said: "The past 12 months have included many milestones for the team ` most recently Armin's win in Austria. "It would be a fitting end to what has already been an encouraging season if we could take some points in Britain."

Mark Higgins is fully aware of the challenge he faces in his Vauxhall Astra when the rally gets underway. Higgins finished the British Rally Championship as vice-champion, missing the title spot by just one point. "It is a fabulous event. It is the toughest challenge we face each year when the world championship comes to Britain," said Higgins. "The Astra is a good, reliable car and we are motivated, so our aim is to finish inside the top 10."

Neil Wearden, who won this year's MSA Rally, would be more than content should he finish in the leading group. "A top-10 finish would be a real achievement for me and for the Astra," said the Vauxhall driver. "The Astra has come on very well this year, it feels good on both tarmac and gravel surfaces." Wearden is also looking forward to a good contest with fellow Astra driver Mark Higgins, adding: "I think Mark and I are closely matched for this one."

A brace of Volkswagen Group N Polo cars are set to stage a giantkilling act round the valleys and hills of Wales. Driven by David Bateson and Sam Roach, the 1.4 litre Polos will be among the smallest cars in the field. But both drivers, neither of whom has tackled the rally before, are looking for success in their class. Bateson will be giving the all-new Polo Group N car its world championship debut ahead of next year's Volkswagen Polo Rally challenge series.

Mark Fisher will be out to make the most of his drive in Wales. The 27-year-old won the Super Cup 106 in 1999 and the prize was the chance to drive a Peugeot 206 WRC on two world championship events. The Acropolis Rally, where Fisher had a non-finish, and the Rally of Great Britain were the events chosen. "We contested a few events in a Group A four-wheel drive car to increase our speed and were second in the Enterprise and Bulldog rallies," he said.

The entry list for the British round of the World Rally Championship has attracted the strongest manufacturer team line-up in the series' history. Ford, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, SEAT, Skoda and Subaru have entered a total of 19 cars. Leon Pesticcio will be the youngest competitor at the age of 19 and Sabrina Shaw, also 19, is the youngest female. Pesticcio will be driving a Group N Mitsubishi Evo V and Shaw a Group N Subaru Impreza.

Chris Heatherington from Northumberland will have his father Peter accompanying him as co-driver in a Mitsubishi. Father and son Alan and James Thompson from Farnham will also be keeping it in the family, along with brothers Stuart and Steve Egglestone from Cumbria. Italian brothers Stefano and Massimo Macaluso will be in separate Fiat Punto kit cars. German Achim Warmbold, who was a team director for Mazda in the 1980s, will be driving a Toyota Corolla WRC.

Oliver Clark, the son of double RAC rally winner and British rally legend Roger Clark, will be in a Mitsubishi. The BBC's Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq will be co-driving for 2000 British A5 rally champion Ben Briant. ITV's Formula One analyst Tony Jardine will be in a Honda Integra, accompanied by The Mirror sports editor Des Kelly. Three-times British women's rally champion co-driver and ex-co-driver to Jimmy McRae, Pauline Gullick, will partner driver Natalie Barratt.

Thursday schedule:
LEG ONE: Cardiff-Cardiff
Stage              km         Time
Start  Cardiff               18.30
SS1    Cardiff    2.43       18.58
Finish Cardiff               19.33

Friday schedule:
LEG ONE (continued) Cardiff-Cardiff
Stage               km        Time
Start  Cardiff                6.30
SS2    St Gwynno   13.67      7.34
SS3    Tyle        10.58      8.01
SS4    Rhondda 1   26.47      8.37
SS5    Crychan     15.57     11.58
SS6    Halfway     17.45     12.29
SS7    Halfren SL  27.23     16.00
SS8    Myherin     16.79     16.42
Finish Cardiff               20.57
Total             130.19

Saturday schedule:
LEG TWO: Cardiff-Cardiff
Stage               km        Time
Start  Cardiff                6.25
SS9    Rhondda 2   26.47      7.56
SS10   Rheola 1    31.47      8.57
SS11   Resolven    46.45     10.56
SS12   Rheola 2    31.47     13.42
SS13   Margam 1    28.13     15.00
SS14   Cardiff 2    2.43     18.01
Finish Cardiff               18.36
Total             166.32

Sunday schedule:
LEG THREE: Cardiff-Cardiff
Stage               km        Time
Start  Cardiff                6.00
SS15   Brechfa     29.80      8.40
SS16   Trawscoed   26.26      9.28
SS17   Margam 2    28.13     13.40
Finish Cardiff               15.56
Total              84.19
Rally total       380.80


F1:- Ferrari will start testing for the 2001 campaign next month without world champion Michael Schumacher. Schumacher is recuperating from an operation to remove a pin from the leg he broke at Silverstone in 1999. The German's team-mate Rubens Barrichello and test driver Luca Badoer will drive the new car in three tests at Jerez, Valencia and Barcelona. Ferrari said on their website: "The building of the car that will defend our titles is going to plan."

RALLYING:- Niall McShea has become the first driver to win the Roger Clark Award, a national scheme instigated to encourage future rally champions. The 26-year-old from Northern Ireland was chosen from seven finalists for the honour named in memory of the British rallying legend who died last year.

RALLY OF GREAT BRITAIN:- Championship rivals Richard Burns and Marcus Gronholm were locked together after Thursday's first special stage. They completed the stage on a specially constructed supersprint track in two minutes 21.5 seconds, Gronholm fighting back after a good start by Burns. Burns' British rival Colin McRae was ahead of him after posting a time of two minutes 20.5 seconds. Juha Kankkunen and Janne Tuohino set the pace in the special stage after covering the track in 2:19.5.

Positions after stage 1 (Day 1):min sec
 1 J Kankkunen Fin Subaru        2.19.5
 = J Tuohino   Fin Toyota        2.19.5
 3 C Sainz     Sp  Ford          2.19.8
 4 T Laukkanen Fin Ford          2.20.0
 5 P Solberg   Ned Subaru        2.20.4
 6 C McRae     GB  Ford          2.20.5
 7 H Solberg   Nor Toyota        2.20.5
 8 S Finlay    GB  Ford          2.20.6
 9 G Evans     GB  SEAT          2.20.7
10 A McRae     GB  Hyundai       2.21.1
11 K Eriksson  Swe Hyundai       2.21.2
12 F Loix      Bel Mitsubishi    2.21.2
13 T G'meister Fin SEAT          2.21.4
14 M Gronholm  Fin Peugeot       2.21.5
 = R Burns     GB  Subaru        2.21.5
16 G Panizzi   Fr  Peugeot       2.21.5
17 A Navarra   It  Toyota        2.21.6
18 H Rovanpera Fin SEAT          2.21.9
19 M Martin    Est Toyota        2.22.3
20 F Delecour  Fr  Peugeot       2.22.4
21 A Schwarz   Ger Skoda         2.22.8
22 D Auriol    Fr  SEAT          2.23.0
23 T Makinen   Fin Mitsubishi    2.23.8

Colin McRae was unsurprised by the wet and muddy conditions he encountered during Thursday's special stage. McRae came in sixth fastest, with Ford team-mates Carlos Sainz and Tapio Laukkanen also in the top six. "Conditions were extremely muddy, which is not surprising after all the rain of the past few days," he said. "It was good entertainment for the crowds but the rally starts for real when we go into the forests in the morning," he added.


F1:- Young German driver Andre Lotterer will get a Formula One test with Jaguar next month, the team said on Friday. A spokeswoman said Lotterer, signed earlier in the year as a development driver, would test the Jaguar R1 in Barcelona from December 12 to 14.

MOTORSPORT:- Moscow City government have signed a deal with TWR Group boss Tom Walkinshaw to develop an international moto sport facility in the City. Work on the circuit, just a few kilometres south of Red Square, is due to start in Spring 2001 and be completed within two years.

RALLY OF GREAT BRITAIN:- Richard Burns' slim hopes of claiming the world title were kept alive after recovering from a disastrous start. Burns damaged his suspension after hitting a rock on the first timed stage as he tried to put the pressure on championship favourite Marcus Gronholm. He also spun on another stage but a late fightback left him in fifth place at the end of the day. Scotland's Colin McRae leads the event with Championship leader Marcus Gronholm in second place.

Leaderboard after stage 8 (Day 2):
                             hr min sec
 1 C McRae     GB  Ford       1:15.40.0
 2 M Gronholm  Fin Peugeot    1:15.59.7
 3 C Sainz     Sp  Ford       1:16.31.3
 4 T Makinen   Fin Mitsubishi 1:16.32.6
 5 R Burns     GB  Subaru     1:16.38.3
 6 D Auriol    Fr  SEAT       1:16.40.8
 7 J Kankunnen Fin Subaru     1:17.04.4
 8 F Delecour  Fr  Peugeot    1:17.12.2
 9 G Panizzi   Fr  Peugeot    1:17.24.4
10 M Martin    Est Toyota     1:17.24.5
11 T Laukkanen Fin Ford       1:17.57.4
12 H R'perra   Fin SEAT       1:18.04.9
13 T G'meister Fin SEAT       1:18.15.5
14 A McRae     GB  Hyundai    1:18.21.9
15 A Schwarz   Ger Skoda      1:18.57.0
16 G Evans     GB  SEAT       1:19.59.2
17 H Solberg   Nor Toyota     1:20.27.4
18 P Solberg   Nor Subaru     1:20.56.1
19 L Climent   Sp  Skoda      1:21.18.1
20 A Navarra   It  Toyota     1:20.56.1
21 T Arai      Jpn Subaru     1:21.46.9
22 H A-Wahaibi Omn Subaru     1:22.59.0

Richard Burns is refusing to give up hopes of winning the world championship after an eventful second day. Burns, who needs to win the event for any hope of title glory, damaged his rear suspension on the first stage but recovered to end the day fifth. "I am not worried. I can make up the time and am determined to get it back, he said. "There are still two days left and tomorrow is the big day. Anything can happen as I found out this morning."

World title hopeful Richard Burns revealed how relieved he had been to recover from damaging his suspension on the opening stage. "I did not think about it at first but on the next straight it became obvious I had a big problem," he said. "I cannot imagine how sick I would have felt if we did not get the car into the service area. It was a huge relief to get there and not a case of anger because I made the mistake trying to drive too quickly."

Marcus Gronholm was happy after ending the first full day in second place but is not going to take the world title for granted. The Finn needs to finish in the top six to assure he wins the title - even if Richard Burns wins the event. "Maybe we can slow down now, I am not going to take any risks. The last two stages I took maybe a little too easy. But I have finished the day without any big problems and I am quite happy to be second."

Colin McRae has spoke of his delight at leading the Rally of Great Britain. "There is no pressure with the championship so I am enjoying myself. It is fun to drive in this position and I am delighted to be leading," he said. "The Focus has run well all day and I was very happy with my performance on the last two stages in darkness where we were much faster than our rivals. I'm determined to win this rally and end the year on a high note but we've another two days that will be tough."

Didier Auriol was delighted after leading a superb SEAT charge into sixth place at the end of stage eight. "I'm very happy. Today we have had a trouble-free day and the car was superb," said Auriol. "My position is better than I expected at the beginning of the rally. I tried hard and the car was with me!" The other three SEAT drivers, Toni Gardmeister, Harri Rovanpera and Gwyndaf Evans also enjoyed a relatively mechanically trouble-free day.

Gwyndaf Evans admitted to being a bit rusty in his first international rally for 12 months. The Welshman survived a huge spin at St Gwynno before finally driving his SEAT into 16th place. "We spent today getting back into the swing of things. The stages were very fast and quite daunting. Not rallying for 12 months is a bit of a shock to the system. I'm pleased to have finished today's tough stages and am looking forward to tomorrow."

Armin Schwarz did not let leaking oil from the front differential of his Skoda put him off on a tough day. The problem arose on the second stage but after a change of gearbox, the German managed to complete the last four stages without any further dramas. "The oil leak cost us considerable time and in this kind of weather, forest stages are very muddy," said Schwarz. "Since then, although the car has been working well and feels good, I've opted for caution."


Richard Burns leads the rally by almost 20 seconds at the end of the third day, which saw Colin McRae crash out. Burns, who must win the event to have any hope of claiming the world title, won four of the day's six stages. But championship leader Marcus Gronholm is perfectly placed in second and only has to finish in the top five. McRae, who had led since early Friday, damaged the radiator of his Ford Focus when it hit deep ruts soon into the 12th stage and was forced to stop.

Leaderboard after stage 14 (Day 3):
                             hr min sec
 1 R Burns     GB  Subaru     2:51.46.0
 2 M Gronholm  Fin Peugeot    2:52.05.9
 3 C Sainz     Sp  Ford       2:53.05.9
 4 T Makinen   Fin Mitsubishi 2:53.06.2
 5 J Kankunnen Fin Subaru     2:53.20.7
 6 F Delecour  Fr  Peugeot    2:53.33.4
 7 G Panizzi   Fr  Peugeot    2:54.05.7
 8 M Martin    Sp  Toyota     2:54.32.5
 9 D Auriol    Fr  SEAT       2:55.17.7
10 H Rovanpera Fin SEAT       2:55.52.9
11 A McRae     GB  Hyundai    2:56.50.9
12 T G'meister Fin SEAT       2:57.27.5
13 P Solberg   Nor Subaru     2:57.42.7
14 A Schwarz   Ger Skoda      2:59.03.8
15 H Solberg   Nor Toyota     3:02.16.1
16 L Climent   Sp  Skoda      3:03.10.6
17 H Al-Wah'bi Omn Subaru     3:05.05.3
18 M Dodd      GB  Subaru     3:08.39.3
19 M Stohl     Aut Mitsubishi 3:09.21.5
20 K Backlund  Swe Mitsubishi 3:12.13.7
21 O Harkki    Fin Mitsubishi 3:14.46.7
22 I P'mitriou Gre Subaru     3:15.25.2
23 M Higgins   GB  Vauxhall   3:15.36.9
24 R Travaglia It  Mitsubishi 3:16.50.3

Richard Burns may be leading the rally, but he is still relying on a mistake from Marcus Gronholm if he is to win the world championship. The Finn needs a top five finish to take the crown, and though Colin McRae's exit has helped Burns, the British driver knows more is needed. "Marcus is doing exceptionally well but anything can happen," Burns said. I'll just concentrate on making sure we do what's necessary to win ` that's as much as we can control."

Marcus Gronholm will not take any risks as he pursues the fifth place he needs to take the world title. Richard Burns, his only rival for the crown, leads the rally, but Gronholm said: "It's not a problem. I have no reason to fight him. I've been driving at 95% and not taking risks ` driving just like my grandmother," he added. "I'm happy with the car and I feel good. There will be no attacks from me, just steady driving."

Colin McRae was disappointed to crash out when leading the rally after damaging his radiator. McRae's car bounced off the road after hitting deep ruts and he said: "We were moving again within 30 seconds. There was a long way to go to the end of the stage. Though we tried to carry on the radiator damage was too great. We were determined to end the year on a high note and felt comfortable with the lead we had. It would have been difficult for anyone to catch us."

Welsh driver Gwyndaf Evans saw his rally bid end in disappointing style after a broken clutch forced him to retire in Saturday's opening stage. "It started to slip two kilometres into the stage," he said. "I thought we were in trouble, but then it cleared for a while and everything was okay. Then it began to get worse and after 16kms it was impossible to continue. Of course I'm really disappointed as I was confident we could move up many places during the day."

Alister McRae enjoyed a good day, moving from 14th overnight to 11th. "It's been a really difficult day," he said. "We started well with the engine working fine. But the conditions have been quite bad, we had a problem with the sump and then the sump guard became damaged, so I can't say I've enjoyed this rally. Double usage of the stages means they're very cut up, very rough and rutted. Using Margam will be very bad as it's already extremely slippery."

SEAT drivers Didier Auriol and Harri Rovanpera are in ninth and tenth spots and will be aiming to give SEAT a good world rally send-off. Rovanpera said: "Sunday's leg is very short, but I will continue fighting to reach the end of a very special rally. "This is the end of a successful story with my SEAT family." Toni Gardemeister in 12th spot added: "My objectives are to finish the rally by driving flat out, so I can say farewell to the team in style."

Ford driver Carlos Sainz ended the day in third spot after a day-long struggle with Tommi Makinen. "We made several minor alterations to the suspension on the Focus to perfect the handling and I'm now happy with the settings," Sainz said. "It's not been easy driving quickly in such slippery conditions. Colin (McRae) set a strong pace and we couldn't match his times, but he was competing on home ground and it's his rally," he added.


Final leaderboard after stage 17:
                             hr min sec
 1 R Burns     GB  Subaru     3:43.01.9
 2 M Gronholm  Fin Peugeot    3:44.07.5
 3 T Makinen   Fin Mitsubishi 3:44.16.9
 4 C Sainz     Sp  Ford       3:44.35.4
 5 J Kankunnen Fin Subaru     3:44.48.8
 6 F Delecour  Fr  Peugeot    3:44.50.4
 7 M Martin    Sp  Toyota     3:46.26.3
 8 G Panizzi   Fr  Peugeot    3:46.37.5
 9 D Auriol    Fr  SEAT       3:47.29.4
10 H Rovanpera Fin SEAT       3:48.12.0
11 A McRae     GB  Hyundai    3:49.04.7
12 T G'meister Fin SEAT       3:50.01.0
13 A Schwarz   Ger Skoda      3:52.49.3
14 H Solberg   Nor Toyota     3:55.05.5
15 H A-W'aibi  Omn Subaru     3:59.57.3
16 L Climent   Sp  Skoda      3:59.59.1
17 M Stohl     Aut Mitsubishi 4:07.45.3
18 K Backlund  Swe Mitsubishi 4:09.30.8
19 O Harkki    Fin Mitsubishi 4:13.11.3
20 I P'triou   Gre Subaru     4:13.32.4
21 R Ferreyros Per Mitsubishi 4:15.03.1
22 G Cox       GB  Mitsubishi 4:15.59.9
23 J Easson    GB  Mitsubishi 4:16.23.4
24 R Trevaglia It  Mitsubishi 4:16.25.6

Richard Burns became the first Briton to win three successive British Rallies but it was not enough to stop Marcus Gronholm securing the world title. Gronholm needed a top five place to clinch the title and finished second to Burns to win it for the first time. Burns almost went out of the Rally on Friday morning after damaging his rear suspension but he recovered to take the lead after Colin McRae crashed out. Gronholm drove cautiously to ensure nothing would wreck his title dreams.

Marcus Gronholm became the sixth Finn to win the world championship since it started in 1979 after taking second place behind Richard Burns in Wales. Compatriot Tommi Makinen won the title for the past four years and Gronholm's triumph also gave Peugeot their first clean sweep of titles since 1986. "I'm very happy to win the title again for Finland. It's great," he said. "But I never thought I could do this after the first rally in Monaco when the car did not start."

Marcus Gronholm admitted he took no chances on his way to securing the world title in Wales. "I didn't take any risks, just kept a good enough speed so I didn't relax too much and lose concentration," he said. "The final stage was used on Saturday so it was very slippery but I felt confident and the car worked well. It hasn't really sunk in yet but it is a good feeling. We didn't expect to win this year and I came to learn but the team has been fantastic."

Richard Burns was gracious in defeat after his win in Cardiff could not stop Marcus Gronholm being crowned champion. He said: "I do not begrudge Marcus the championship. He's been under pressure here and in Australia but has not made any mistakes and deserves the title. I have been beaten by the better driver this year so next year I will have to do better. It is fantastic to win here again but obviously it's disappointing not to win the world championship."

Carlos Sainz' fourth place put him third in the drivers standings and was also good enough to secure second in the constructors standings for Ford. Sainz just lost out to Tommi Makinen in the battle for the last podium position but was still a happy man. "This has been a very difficult rally for everyone because of the slippery conditions," he said. Ford team director Malcolm Wilson said: "We have a good platform on which to build in 2001."

1 M Gronholm   Fin  Peugeot     65 pts
2 R Burns      GB   Subaru      60
3 C Sainz      Sp   Ford        46
4 C McRae      GB   Ford        43
5 T Makinen    Fin  Mitsubishi  36
6 G Panizzi    Fr   Peugeot     21

1 Peugeot       111 pts
2 Ford           91
3 Subaru         88
4 Mitsubishi     43
5 SEAT           11
6 Skoda           8
= Hyundai         8


F1:- French driver Jean Alesi escaped without injury after a high-speed crash in the Monza rally at the weekend. Alesi, the most experienced man on the current Formula One grid with 184 races to his name, crashed during the event's third special stage at the circuit. He crashed into an outside guard-rail while he was negotiating the banked south curve of the circuit at 185km/h. His Subaru Impreza world rally car took off for a few metres before spinning in mid-air and then landing in a ditch.

RALLYING:- The winner of next year's Volkswagen Polo Rally Challenge will drive away in a 1.6-litre Volkswagen Polo GTi. The championship runner up will win £5,000 in cash, with third-placed driver collecting £2,500.


F1:- World champion Michael Schumacher has said he is happy to stay with Ferrari beyond 2003 after ending their 21 year wait for the driver's title. "You can't compare the atmosphere with any other team. My contract is for two more years and I'll definitely see it through," he told German television. "It took us five years to reach that level and I want us to stay where we are for a while," he added. "Moments like that are great, I see no reason why there shouldn't be more."

RALLYING:- The Peugeot rally team has confirmed that Frenchman Didier Auriol will drive for the double world champions in 2001. Peugeot, who won the 2000 drivers' and manufacturers' championships on Sunday, have signed Auriol as a replacement for the departing Francois Delecour. He will drive alongside new champion Marcus Gronholm of Finland. "I'm delighted to be joining Peugeot and a French team," he said. "I cannot wait to start testing the 206 as soon as I can."

INDYLIGHTS:- 2000 EFPA champion Damien Faulkner will drive with Dorricott Racing in the 2001 Indy Lights championship. The first round takes place in Monterrey, Mexico, on March 11.


F1:- Brazilian Pedro Diniz will not drive for the Prost team next season after buying a stake in the outfit and opting to take on a managerial role instead. However, Diniz has not yet decided whether this marks the end of his racing career altogether. "Pedro preferred to commit himself fully to his new position rather than try to be a team owner and a driver," said his manager, Daniel Morelli. "He doesn't know what will happen in a couple of years' time."

Giancarlo Fisichella will learn in the next fortnight if he is to miss pre-season testing to have knee surgery. The Italian is undergoing physiotherapy on his right knee in Rome but could need surgery to cure a kneecap problem. If he does have an operation, the Benetton driver will undergo surgery on December 23 and would be ruled for the whole of January's sessions. However the team say he will be definitely be ready for the start of the new season in March.

Arrows drivers Jos Verstappen and Pedro de la Rosa will conduct tests on the A21 Prototype in Jerez and Valencia. Gaston Mazzacane will take over in Barcelona on December 18 and 19.

GRIZEDALE STAGES RALLY:- Ducati Superbike team boss Paul Bird takes to the forests once more in this Rally in his native Lake District. The Penrith driver will compete in a Subaru Impreza Coupe for the event which starts and finishes in Coniston village on Saturday. It will be his third attempt at a stage rally and he hopes for better luck than on the previous two occasions. This year's national champion Steve Petch and BTRDA champion Brian Bell are also in the field.