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 NEWS ARCHIVES: February 2001

Archived news on International F3000, Euro F3000 and Formula Nippon.

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 25th February 2001 - International F3000:

Albers inks European Minardi deal Despite losing out in the chase for a seat at European Minardi's F1 and F3000 teams, Dutchman Christijan Albers will reportedly remain contracted to Paul Stoddart this year. Albers, who drove for the Australian's F3000 team last year, then European Arrows, has signed a deal which could see him become the F1 test and reserve driver in the future, according to BBC Ceefax. Andrea Piccini has already been signed as tester for this year, while the F1 and F3000 race seats have already been taken by Fernando Alonso/Tarso Marques and Piccini/David Saelens respectively. Former German F3 champion Albers has been strongly tipped to sign for one of the Mercedes teams in the DTM this season.

 

25th February 2001 - Formula Nippon:

Leyjun pull out of Formula Nippon In a surprise announcement, Team Leyjun will not be contesting this year's Formula Nippon championship. The team have pulled out to concentrate on their efforts in Japanese GTs, where they have entered a Porsche GT3R in the GT300 class. They plan to return to Formula Nippon in 2002. Shinsuke Shibahara will remain at the team for the GT programme, but not with Leyjun in Formula Nippon as expected. There is talk that he might secure a drive with another Formula Nippon team, although there is only a limited number of seats available. News supplied courtesy of Nicolas Korzan.

 

25th February 2001 - Formula Nippon:

Impul and Nakajima test at CP MINE Top Formula Nippon teams Impul and Nakajima tested at Central Park MINE circuit last week, from Wednesday 21st to Friday 23rd. Nakajima ran both Tsugio Matsuda and Ralph Firman while Satoshi Motoyama was the only driver present for Impul. Motoyama set the fastest time on the final day, 1:12.828. The tests were interrupted by rain on the afternoon sessions of the first and last days. Times, courtesy of Nicolas Korzan, are here.

 

25th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Is Nurburgring, not the A1-Ring, on Euro F3000 calendar? According to Motorshow Online in a report dated February 21st, the eighth venue in the Euro F3000 championship will be the Nurburgring in Germany (on September 16th), rather than the A1-Ring in Austria (on July 22nd) as stated by Motoring News this week. We are not clear on the final dates for the series, and would greatly appreciate any information site visitors may have.

 

25th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

14 teams in Euro F3000's first season After a great deal of interest late last year, the final tally of teams taking part in the inaugural Euro F3000 championship will be 14, according to series boss Pierluigi Corbari. The squads competing are: Sighinolfi Autoracing, Ghinzani Trading, Draco Junior, GP Racing, Monaco Motorsport, Monaco Motorsport Junior Team, Durango Benetton, ADM Motorsport, Great Wall Racing, Fortec Italia Motorsport, Uboldi Corse, Arden Team Russia, Orbit Motorsport and Martello Racing. Amongst the notable absences from this list are CF Motorsport, the team set up by ex-Durango man Fabio Fortina, and B&C Competition. Free practice will be held on the Friday of a race, qualifying on the Saturday, and the 140km race on a Sunday. (Source: Motorshow Online)

 

25th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Sperafico and Nienkötter to ADM? Again according to the Motorshow Online provisional line-up, Rodrigo Sperafico and Leonardo Nienkötter could race for ADM Motorsport this year. The two Brazilians drove for the Draco Junior Team last year, Sperafico taking fourth in the championship (then F3000 Italia). His twin brother Ricardo took the championship for ADM, before graduating to International F3000 with Petrobras Junior. Rodrigo may yet join his brother in the premier series, as he impressed in testing with Coloni at Imola. Fellow Brazilian Marcelo Battistuzzi had been expected to sign for ADM at the beginning of the year.

 

25th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Calcagni and Goudy to stay at Monaco? According to the Motorshow Online provisional line-up, Gianluca Calcagni and Yann Goudy are set to race for Monaco Motorsport this year. Italian Calcagni finished seventh overall for the squad last year (in F3000 Italia), while Frenchman Goudy raced for the secondary Monaco Motorsport Junior Team.

 

25th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Van der Linde to race for Martello? According to Motorshow Online, South Africa's Etienne van der Linde is racing for Martello (renamed Da Vinci in the 2000 season) in this year's Euro F3000 championship. Van der Linde was known to be seeking an F3000 drive, and he tested for International series teams Kid Jensen Racing and Petrobras Junior late last year.

 

25th February 2001 - International F3000:

Haberfeld samples Jordan at Silverstone Super Nova's Mario Haberfeld tested a Jordan Grand Prix car at Silverstone on Thursday. The Brazilian told SportsYa! Brazil that the engineers were pleased with the feedback he gave, adding that he set a good time in Jarno Trulli's car on a full tank and hard compound tyres.

 

25th February 2001 - International F3000:

Fontana signs TC2000 Toyota deal Norberto Fontana's slim hopes of returning to F3000 or Formula Nippon are over after he has committed himself to race a Toyota Corolla in the TC2000 series for the official Toyota team as expected. The Argentinian partners Juan Maria Traverso. Fontana had been linked to teams in F3000 and Formula Nippon, and held out for a seat at Super Nova until fellow South American Mario Haberfeld signed for the drive. (Source: SportsYa! Argentina / thanks to Nicolas Korzan)

 

22nd February 2001 - International F3000:

Jerez private testing day 2: Manning on top as Brits set the pace As private testing continued at Jerez today, the two British contenders for the championship, Darren Manning (Arden Team Russia) and Justin Wilson (Coca-Cola Nordic Racing) continued to set the pace. Times dropped from yesterday, with Manning improving to 1:33.208 in the morning session. Once again the afternoon times were slower, and again Wilson set the afternoon pace. Manning emerged quickest overall for the two days, from Wilson and Sebastien Bourdais (DAMS). Times (source: Justin Wilson Club) can be viewed here.

 

22nd February 2001 - International F3000:

Janis given Nordic try-out A surprise appearance at the private Jerez testing today was Jaroslav Janis. The Czech driver drove for Coca-Cola Nordic Racing, since he is backed by Coca-Cola in Formula Palmer Audi. He drove Justin Wilson's car for 18 laps on old tyres in the afternoon, setting a best time of 1:37.744 (source: Justin Wilson Club). Janis, managed by the same team as Nordic's Tomas Enge, finished third overall in the FPA winter series last year, and graduates to the main FPA series this season along with his car's distinctive colour scheme.

 

22nd February 2001 - International F3000:

Kid Jensen Racing linked to Monaco Motorsport merger According to Motoring News, Kid Jensen Racing have been linked to a possible merger with Monaco Motorsport for the forthcoming season. Kid Jensen Racing were the only team to be absent from last week's Imola testing, and are yet to confirm whether they will continue this year, despite securing an entry from the FIA. Monaco Motorsport, last seen in the International series in 1999, were reportedly making a late bid for the 15th and final entry, with Fabrice Walfisch linked to the team. Monaco, who ran two separate teams in Italian F3000 last year, were not present at this week's collective Euro F3000 tests.

 

22nd February 2001 - Euro F3000:

A1 Ring completes Euro F3000 calendar The final venue in the eight-race Euro F3000 series has been confirmed as the A1-Ring, according to Motoring News. The Austrian circuit will host the race on July 22nd, in addition to the International F3000 round on May 12th.

 

22nd February 2001 - International F3000:

Haberfeld invited to test Jordan Super Nova signing Mario Haberfeld was due to test for Jordan at Silverstone today. The Brazilian was invited to test with the team that David Brown joined over the winter, Haberfeld's former team boss when the Brazilian drove for McLaren in F3000 in 1999. Haberfeld has tested F1 cars for Stewart and McLaren in the past, and he commented that he wanted to see how much they have evolved since he last experienced them. It is not clear whether Haberfeld could be in contention to be signed as a second test driver alongside Ricardo Zonta.

 

22nd February 2001 - Italian F3000:

Montin signs for top Japanese F3 team Former Italian F3000 and F3 driver Paolo Montin has signed for TOM's, with the team attempting to reclaim the All-Japan F3 title from rival squad Dome. The Italian raced for Durango in 1999 where he made a good impression, but he was forced to spend last season on the sidelines, making only one appearance in a practice session with the Monaco Motorsport Junior Team. An F3 return for the end-of-season Macau GP showed he had lost none of his speed, Montin finishing 2nd with Target Racing.

 

21st February 2001 - International F3000:

Teams test at Jerez and Snetterton; Manning quickest in Spain Following on from the Imola official tests, a number of F3000 teams have been in action in private testing at Jerez, Spain, while Super Nova have stayed closer to home and were due to test at Snetterton, England, today. Arden's Darren Manning topped the first day's times at Jerez today, with Justin Wilson (Nordic) second, and Sebastien Bourdais (DAMS) third. Manning was quickest in the morning session, with Wilson fastest in the afternoon when times were slower. Times (source: Justin Wilson Club) can be viewed here. In Norfolk, Mario Haberfeld and Mark Webber were set to test with Super Nova, the only F3000 team at the track. The objective was not to improve the cars, but to soften all of the brake discs that will be used in this season's twelve races. Team boss David Sears told SportsYa! Brazil [translated]: "This work is sufficiently monotonous, but it needs to be done because it can decide a race and even a championship." He added: "The official practice is very short, only two sessions of 45 minutes with 30 cars on the track. Who arrives without the softened brakes loses at least 15 minutes…"

 

21st February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Vallelunga times updated The Vallelunga Euro F3000 test times have been updated with the overall classification from day 2 yesterday (Tuesday). The times can be seen here.

 

20th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Vallelunga testing day 2: Massa quickest again Draco's Felipe Massa again set the pace in Euro F3000 testing from Vallelunga today. On the second day of the 2-day meeting, Massa improved his time to 1:04.830. Sighinolfi's duo Alessandro Piccolo and Salvatore Tavano were second and eighth respectively. Giancarlo Minardi reportedly telephoned team boss Franco Sighinolfi with the intention [if our translation is correct] of having an option on them for the European Minardi F1 team. Times can be seen here and will be expanded when available.

 

19th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Vallelunga testing day 1: Massa quickest Brazilian Felipe Massa continued to impress as the first official Euro F3000 collective test session of the year got underway today. The Draco driver set the best time of 1:05.39, outpacing fellow rookie and former Italian Formula Renault rival Alessandro Piccolo, testing for Sighinolfi. The experienced Thomas Biagi (GP Racing) was third, with Salvatore Tavano (Sighinolfi) fourth. On his return to F3000 after a successful German F3 campaign, Alex Müller of Germany was fifth with Team Ghinzani. Euro Formula Palmer Audi graduate Marco Cioci looks to be in contention to join Durango, testing alongside Michele Spoldi who seems likely to retain his seat. Meanwhile Jean de Pourtales, who raced once for Redgrave in 1999, tested for Martello. Testing continues tomorrow. Times can be seen here.

 

19th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Bentwood testing at Donington last November

Fortec Italia Motorsport sign Villaamil and Bentwood; Sospiri involved Fortec Motorsport has joined forces with a consortium of Italian investors to form "Fortec Italia Motorsport" to enter the Euro F3000 Championship. The team is jointly owned by Fortec Motorsport UK and the consortium of Italian companies. Head representative of the Italian investors is Gianni Ferreri, with ex-British F3000 driver Vito Popolizio as Sports Director. 1995 International F3000 champion Vincenzo Sospiri recently approached Fortec Motorsport with a proposal for the Euro F3000 Championship, and the venture was put together early this year. Vincenzo will play a major part in the team, which will be a joint venture between the various parties based in Forli, Italy. The driver line up for 2001 will be the Englishman, Michael Bentwood [pictured testing last November] and Spaniard Polo Villaamil. Bentwood was the top Brit in British F3 last year with Fortec Motorsport, while Villaamil has experience in both International and Italian F3000. Bentwood said: "I'm very pleased to have signed with Fortec, the continuity is very important and we've every faith in each other. Vincenzo's input into the team will be invaluable and he is right behind me in forwarding my career. F3000 is a new challenge for me, and I'm ready to meet that challenge." Villaamil said: "I am very happy to have signed for Fortec Italia Motorsport. I think Fortec Motorsport’s experience and know-how, combined with Vincenzo Sospiri’s talent and enthusiasm will give the best results. I am sure, that given the chance to work properly we can be serious championship contenders. I am very enthusiastic and upbeat about this project and I will give my best to be there and win some races which I am sure we can." Many of Fortec Italia Motorsport's support team of engineers and mechanics have previous F1 experience. There will be an opportunity for media and journalists to meet the new team before the first race during an official press day, date to be announced. There is no news yet on Fortec's International F3000 line-up. Only one car was run at Imola last week, with Formula Holden runner-up Christian Murchison at the wheel. (Source: Fortec press)

 

19th February 2001 - International F3000:

Vilariño offered European Minardi F3000 drive? According to the prestigious Spanish sports paper Marca, the Spanish Formula Super Toyota champion Ander Vilariño has been offered a drive by European Minardi's F3000 team. The news (courtesy of Spanish correspondant Jose Ramon Galan) is confusing as David Saelens and Andrea Piccini have been confirmed as the drivers for this year. Spaniard Vilariño commented: "I'm looking for the money between the Basque state and Basque firms - I need about 1 million dollars to get the ride." The report states that he will also have four tests with the F1 team during the year. Although the wording of the report suggests Vilariño would join the team this year, we can only speculate that he may be in contention for a drive next year, or that the position of one of the current drivers is under threat. Stay tuned for more if and when we hear it.

 

19th February 2001 - International F3000:

Channel 4 secure F3000 TV rights for the UK According to the Daily Mail, Channel 4 will be broadcasting coverage of International F3000 in the UK, presumably from this season. The article states that F3000 (we presume at present highlights only) will be shown along with British F3 and the British Rally Championship. Channel 4 have also secured the UK rights to the World Rally Championship from the BBC. In a three-year deal estimated to cost between £15m and £20m , WRC events will be shown on Channel 4 from 2002, including revolutionary live coverage of final stages.

 

19th February 2001 - International F3000:

Ayari about to sign for Durango? According to a press release (Source: F3000.com), Soheil Ayari is about to sign for Durango, the team he raced with in 1998 and briefly in F3000 Italia last year. He tested alongside Gabriele Lancieri at Imola last week. The Frenchman said that he was immediately interested in the drive when he heard that Durango were returning to the series, commenting on their success in 1998 (which included a win at Spielberg) and last year in the SRWC. He added that he and Durango will be testing on Italian circuits ahead of the next FIA tests, which take place at Silverstone next month.

 

19th February 2001 - International F3000:

Alonso predicts strong year for European Minardi F3000 After making a surprise appearance in last week's FIA F3000 test at Imola, European Minardi's Fernando Alonso spoke of his brief return to F3000 action in a team press release. The Spaniard, who will race for the F1 team, drove for the F3000 squad on the first day of the Imola tests, setting fastest time in the morning session in David Saelens' car and winding up third quickest on the day, having also driven Andrea Piccini's car in the afternoon. His job was to set a benchmark time and to shake-down the cars, running in an all-black livery. Alonso commented: "It was fun to get back into a Formula 3000 car again and to be able to drive it at a circuit like Imola. The cars feel strong, the team is well run, and I'm sure Andrea and David can look forward to a good year in terms of results. For me, though, the focus is now 100 per cent on Formula One and the Australian Grand Prix. I can't wait for the season to start." Saelens and Piccini spent the first day familiarising themselves with their new team and the cars, and spent the next day concentrating on chassis development. They ended up 16th and 19th overall. European Minardi F3000 Team Manager Richard Salisbury said: "Inevitably, teams and drivers are a little rusty after the winter lay-off, so it was good to get everybody back in harness again and focussed on what we're going to be doing for the next seven months. As expected, Andrea and David settled in quickly and provided some good feedback in the course of the test. Having Fernando here was a real bonus, as quite apart from some excellent technical input, I'm sure his presence served to spur on our two regular drivers, and probably most of the other competitors as well."

 

19th February 2001

Dale Earnhardt: 1951-2001 Many condolences to the family, friends and fans of Dale Earnhardt, who lost his life in yesterday's Daytona 500.

 

16th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Adrian Campos Motorsport scraps Euro F3000 move Multiple Formula Nissan champion team Adrian Campos Motorsport has canned its planned graduation to Euro F3000, according to Autosprint (thanks to Nicolas Korzan). The team initially planned to take their 2000 Formula Nissan champion Antonio Garcia into the series, but the Spaniard found an International F3000 drive at Red Bull Junior. The project looked to be well underway, the team having tested Rafael Sarandeses and Matteo Bobbi at the Valencia collective tests last November.

 

16th February 2001 - International F3000:

Ayari vs. Lancieri for Durango seat? With one seat at Durango yet to be filled, Soheil Ayari looks to have joined Gabriele Lancieri in the fight to partner Jaime Melo Jr. Ayari tested for the team yesterday at Imola, having raced for them in 1998, winning at the A1-Ring, and returning for a few Italian F3000 and SportsRacing World Cup events last year. Italy's Lancieri tested for the squad on Wednesday, having already driven for them at Vallelunga in January and tested their Euro F3000 car late last year. Lancieri performed well in two F3000 Italia seasons with Sighinolfi. He was equal fifth in 1999, the best of the F3000 rookies, while last year he was a championship challenger for much of the season, emerging third overall after a poor end to the year. He took five podiums in his two seasons, including a win at Vallelunga in 2000.

 

16th February 2001 - International F3000:

Prost junior and others to test Jerez next week Having finished 22nd overall in the Imola testing, Prost junior's Nicolas Filiberti and his new team will continue preparations for the season at Jerez in Spain next week, on Wednesday and Thursday. Other top teams are expected to take part in the private testing as well.

 

16th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Sighinolfi to test Tavano and Piccolo According to Prorace, Sighinolfi Autoracing will test Salvatore Tavano and Alessandro Piccolo at the Vallelunga Euro F3000 tests on 19th and 20th February next week. Piccolo was fourth in Italian Formula Renault last season, and has already tested for Sighinolfi this winter. Fellow Italian Tavano drove for B&C Competition and ADM Motorsport in last season's F3000 Italia championship.

 

16th February 2001 - International F3000:

Imola update: Wilson and Haberfeld explain crashes The times for days 1 & 2 of official FIA testing from Imola have been updated and are here. Nordic's Justin Wilson, quickest overall in the test, suffered a small accident into the tyre barrier on day 2. He pushed too hard on a new set of tyres in the afternoon, bringing his running to an end. He told Autosport online: "I was very pleased with the time. The car is working really well and we are over a second faster here than we were last year. I tried too hard early on and had the accident. It wasn't a big impact, just damaging the rear corner and rear wing." Super Nova's Mario Haberfeld was also in the wars, crashing in the morning session. To make matters worse, the rope snapped as his Lola was being hauled onto a recovery truck, causing damage to the rear end. The Brazilian said: "In the morning I made a very big mistake crashing in the fourth lap and then it didn't help that they dropped my car and I lost the rest of the session."

 

16th February 2001 - International F3000:

Kid Jensen Racing skip Imola test Of the fourteen teams set to compete in this year's International F3000 championship, only Kid Jensen Racing were absent from official testing at Imola which finished yesterday. After a worrying post-season period at the end of last year, the team finally earned the right to race in 2001 when there was a lack of interest in the three entries available to the F3000 Italia champion team and to new teams. Despite securing their future, Kid Jensen are yet to sign any drivers for the season. The other seats still available are at Coloni (1 seat), Fortec (2), and Durango (1). With only six seats to be filled, a number of drivers seeking deals are set to be disappointed. It is not clear whether it is too late for a 15th team to enter this year's championship. Monaco Motorsport were reportedly making a late application to secure the final entry in the field, limited by the FIA to 30 cars. If there are only 14 teams competing, there will only be two drivers failing to qualify at each meeting.

 

15th February 2001 - International F3000:

FIA Imola testing day 2 - Wilson ends quickest overall Coca-Cola Nordic Racing's Justin Wilson set the overall pace as FIA testing from Imola came to an end today. He finished on 1:37.85, one place ahead of yesterday's pacesetter Jaime Melo Jr (Durango) on 1:37.90. Super Nova's Mark Webber was third, with rookie Patrick Friesacher (Red Bull Junior) a surprising fourth. Despite setting the quickest time, Wilson suffered an accident in the afternoon after he had put on his final set of tyres, therefore ending his running. Fernando Alonso, who shook down the European Minardi cars yesterday, was absent from today's sessions. Times are here (more to follow when available).

 

15th February 2001 - International F3000:

Murchison tests for Fortec Christian Murchison has emerged as a candidate for a Fortec seat after testing for the squad at Imola. The reigning Formula Holden runner-up was strongly linked to Prost junior earlier in the winter, but has since lost out to Nicolas Filiberti and Gabriele Varano.

 

15th February 2001 - International F3000:

Gollin stays at Coloni F3000 veteran Fabrizio Gollin has re-signed for Coloni, according to Autosport. The Italian finished 10th overall last year with the team, including a second place at the Nurburgring. Jeffrey van Hooydonk is tipped to join him, having parted company with KTR after two years. It also seems that Rodrigo Sperafico is a possibility at Coloni, as it was the Italian squad he was testing for at Imola. He outpaced brother Ricardo yesterday.

 

15th February 2001 - International F3000:

Varano confirmed at Prostar Gabriele Varano will definitely be racing for the Prost junior team this season, Autosport confirm. Varano was 5th in Italian F3 in 1999 with RC Motorsport, and had a part season in Italian F3000 with Team Ghinzani last year, emerging 11th overall. With so little experience, having been in karting as recently as 1997 (when he was 6th in the 100FA world series), Varano could be expected to struggle at first this season.

 

15th February 2001 - International F3000:

New liveries at Imola: Petrobras Junior (left) and Super Nova.

New liveries for Petrobras Junior & Super Nova Amongst the new liveries on display at the Imola F3000 tests, those on the Petrobras Junior and Super Nova cars marked a radical departure from last year's designs. Petrobras Junior has dropped the green and yellow design used for the past two years in favour of a brighter mix of yellow, green and blue (pictured in photo, left). Ricardo Sperafico and Antonio Pizzonia are the drivers. Mario Haberfeld (pictured in photo, right) showed off the new Super Nova livery, a radical change from last season's silver D2-backed design. (Photo © Divulgacao / SportsYa! Brazil)

  

15th February 2001 - International F3000:

Durango retain Benetton link Durango Formula look set to continue their association with Benetton. Racing as Durango Benetton Junior F3000 Italia in the Italian series last year, doubts were cast when it was revealed that Super Nova would be running in a Benetton livery this year. However, Durango have been running in a Benetton livery in testing at Vallelunga last month and Imola this week. Super Nova have a new livery which is not dominated by Benetton's sky-blue colours (see separate story).

 

15th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Doubts over Arden racing in Euro F3000 According to Motoring News, Arden Team Russia will not be taking part in the first Euro F3000 collective test of the year at Vallelunga on February 19th. The reigning champion team has already turned down its prize of a second International F3000 team entry, but now it appears that it is set to can its Euro F3000 team and concentrate solely on the International series. Arden is yet to register an entry for the inaugural Euro F3000 series, formerly F3000 Italia. Last season Arden beat ADM Motorsport to the Teams' title in Italian F3000, Warren Hughes and Viktor Maslov's end-of-season substitute Darren Manning winning three races between them. Hughes took second overall in the championship behind Ricardo Sperafico. After four seasons in the series, Arden are yet to register their first International F3000 win.

 

15th February 2001 - International F3000:

Hynes close to Indy Lights deal Marc Hynes looks set to join Dan Wheldon at PacWest in Indy Lights, according to Autosport Online. The 1999 British F3 champion, who raced three times for WRT in F3000 last season, tested for the squad for a second time this week, at Sebring in Florida. Hynes impressed team manager Paul ‘Ziggy’ Harcus when he tested alongside Ralph Firman and Jeff Simmons in December. Firman has already been ruled out of the drive, as he has signed for PIAA Nakajima in Formula Nippon. Formula Atlantic rookie of the year Wheldon set a time of 58.1secs, a tenth quicker than Hynes on 58.2secs. Harcus said: "Both Dan and Marc had a good day pushing each other. Overall we had a good test, and I’m happy with both drivers’ performances. Towards the end of the day Marc had a small off, but he was OK." Wheldon commented: "We were pretty slow on the straights but we’re not here for optimum lap times, we’re here to test. It’s great working with Ziggy and this team, I’m really looking forward to the upcoming season." The Indy Lights championship starts at Monterrey, Mexico, on March 11th.

 

14th February 2001 - International F3000:

Melo, pictured testing in January at Vallelunga (c) www.durango.it

FIA Imola testing day 1 - Melo Jr sets pace Jaime Melo Jr. was the surprise pace-setter in the first day of FIA testing from Imola. Melo, with new team Durango (pictured testing elsewhere), set a time of 1:38.76 on the circuit at which he impressed in his debut race with Petrobras Junior last year. Patrick Friesacher was second fastest for Red Bull Junior, ahead of Fernando Alonso, making a surprise return for European Minardi's junior arm (see below). Many people's title favourite, Super Nova's Mark Webber, was ninth fastest. Top ten times can be viewed here. More testing times and news tomorrow.

 

14th February 2001 - International F3000:

Alonso makes brief F3000 return European Minardi's F1 driver Fernando Alonso made a surprise return to an F3000 cockpit in the FIA Imola testing. Apparently helping out with European Minardi F3000's preparations, the Spaniard flew in the morning session, setting the fastest time according to the Justin Wilson Club. He emerged third overall on the day.

 

14th February 2001 - International F3000:

Both Sperafico twins test at Imola The two Sperafico twin brothers were present at today's day 1 of Imola testing. While Ricardo Sperafico has long since signed for Petrobras Junior, his brother Rodrigo was also as surprise participant in testing. The team for which he was driving is not yet identified. Ricardo Sperafico won last year's Italian F3000 championship with ADM Motorsport, but Rodrigo also impressed in the series with Draco Junior Team, taking fourth overall.

 

14th February 2001 - International F3000:

Albers close to Merc DTM deal Christijan Albers, who lost his F3000 seat at European Minardi (nee Arrows), now looks a "dead-certainty" for a Mercedes DTM deal, according to Autosport Online. The Dutchman tested a CLK at Jarama in Spain yesterday (Tuesday) and although he was due to continue today, Mercedes were so impressed by his 80 laps that they sent him home early. Albers' most likely berth will be at Rosberg, where he would drive a 2000-spec car. He remains an outside bet for a European Minardi F1 seat, but it is said that he will most likely join Mercedes who are expected to offer him a seat. Albers looked a likely bet to retain his European F3000 seat, having tested the car recently at Varano, but Andrea Piccini and David Saelens took both of the drives.

 

14th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Team Great Wall correction… The two Chinese drivers we stated were racing for "Team Great Wall" (formerly First GP) this season are not confirmed in the drives yet, but are only reliable rumours at present. Also, their names are in fact Yang Liu and Chao Wang, not Liu Yang and Wang Chao as we stated. Both of the drivers originate from Liaoning in North-eastern China. Apologies for the confusion. The Euro F3000 Silly Season table has been updated accordingly. Reports from Italy do suggest that the team's two drivers will both be Chinese.

 

14th February 2001 - Formula Nippon:

Formula Nippon rumours; Couto and Tachikawa drives confirmed? Speculation continues as to who will take the remaining seats in the Formula Nippon championship. According to WOT Results, Andre Couto has already been signed up by Morinaga Nova, where he was already widely expected to race the G-Force chassis. Meanwhile Yuji Tachikawa has reportedly been signed by Kondo Racing. Japanese pop star Masahiko Kondo could himself race the second car, depending on whether he finds the funds. Osamu Nakajima (aka "Osamu") will probably race in the second Leyjun entry, alongside Shinsuke Shibahara. Peter Sundberg is also chasing the drive but has found it difficult to find the sponsorship. Finally, WOT Results also claims that Hideki Noda and Jaroslaw Wierczuk will be racing for the expanded DoCoMo Dandelion team as stated elsewhere.

 

13th February 2001 - International F3000:

David Saelens

Saelens signs for European Minardi; where next for Albers? After initial reports last week of a deal, it has been confirmed that David Saelens will race for European Minardi in F3000 this year, joining Andrea Piccini. The 26-year old Belgian has raced for Super Nova for almost two full seasons, and last year finished equal sixth overall in the championship. He said: "I am delighted to have concluded a deal to drive for Paul Stoddart's European Minardi F3000 team. I know from watching them at work last year, and visiting the Ledbury factory last December, that they are very competitive and professional in their approach, so there is the potential to aim for podium finishes from the first race of the season." He also commented on the benefits of driving for a team which will be run alongside the European Minardi F1 squad: "Another very positive element, of course, is the direct link with the European Minardi F1 team and the possibilities that might offer in the future. It is a great package and I intend to take full advantage of it." Saelens was believed to be on the shortlist for an F1 drive with the team, but now Gianni Morbidelli looks increasingly likely to be signed. Piccini already has the testing deal. Stoddart earlier commented: "We have to make a very sensible decision as to who gets the second seat and obviously we've got options. We can either go for a young charger, or we can go with the stability of putting somebody in like Gianni who has got all that experience. The two of them together would probably be a sensible partnership." If the Italian is announced at the team, the future of Christijan Albers is uncertain. The Dutchman was the other driver said to be on the F1 shortlist, and he was said to be in favour with Stoddart, whether that was for an F1 drive or to retain his F3000 seat. Albers also shook-down the F3000 car recently.

 

13th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Team Great Wall drivers named The two Chinese drivers racing for "Team Great Wall" (formerly First GP) in Euro F3000 are Liu Yang and Wang Chao, according to sources in Hong Kong. Both drivers competed in the China Formula 2000 championship last year, Chao emerging as champion and Yang taking the runner-up spot. They have reportedly managed to find an Italian sponsor. Many thanks to reader Allan for the news.

 

13th February 2001 - Formula Nippon:

Sundberg waiting on Leyjun decision According to reports in Sweden, courtesy of correspondant Stefan Persson, Peter Sundberg is waiting for the decision of Leyjun to see if he will be driving for the team this season. The Swede is short of sponsorship and the team want more money from him, which it appears he cannot find. Peter is therefore waiting to hear from Leyjun, where Shinsuke Shibahara is already confirmed. Sundberg won the 1999 Italian F3 championship before making a brief graduation to F3000 Italia last year with Team Ghinzani.

 

13th February 2001 - International F3000:

FIA Imola testing preview Tomorrow and Thursday sees the first official action of the International F3000 season. Imola hosts the first official FIA group test of the year, and while many teams have already tested in January and February, this will be the first time they can compare their form with the rest of the field. The anti-clockwise configuration of Imola means it is also useful preparation for the opening round at Interlagos next month. The driver line-up has been taking shape swiftly in recent weeks, but a number of seats are yet to be filled. In particular, there has been no word on the line-ups at Coloni, Kid Jensen Racing and Fortec Motorsport. The Imola tests should give some clues as to the likely candidates for these seats. It is still not clear whether there will be a fifteenth team in the category, with Monaco Motorsport said to be applying for the remaining entry which was turned down by Arden and refused to Astromega, who wanted to enter a second squad.

 

13th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Euro F3000 calendar changes There have been significant changes to the previously published Euro F3000 calendar. On the 6th May the traditional Enna-Pergusa event replaces the previously announced venue of Mugello, while the Imola date has changed from 15th July to 26th August. The Valencia round moves forward from the 21st to the 7th of October. There is still no word on the eighth race of the series, with no date or venue yet confirmed. It is unclear whether the organisers have decided to settle on a 7-round series. A number of circuits have been linked to the race: Oschersleben (D), A1-Ring (A), Estoril (P), Silverstone (GB), and Pau (F). In addition, according to AUTOSPORTinfo, applications were made from the Hungaroring (H), Pannoniaring (H) and St.Petersburg (RUS). The latter proposal apparently involved LukOil, the Russian oil giant which backs Arden Team Russia in the category. Such a race would be a useful promotional tool in Russia's bid for its first Grand Prix. It is not clear whether any of these tracks will be hosting non-championship races, as Assen (NL) did last year. It was said late last year that two such races could be held. The updated provisional calendar is: Vallelunga (I), 22nd April; Pergusa (I), 6th May; Brno (CZ), 20th May; Monza (I), 24th June; Donington (GB), 12th August; Imola (I), 26th August; Valencia (E), 7th October. Further information on the Euro F3000 calendar is welcomed. (Sources: Motorshow Online / Autosportnews)

 

11th February 2001 - International F3000:

Saelens joins Albers on European Minardi F1 shortlist According to Autosportmagazine.com, David Saelens is also on the three driver shortlist for the remaining European Minardi F1 seat. He joins Christijan Albers in contention for the drive, while reports suggest Gianni Morbidelli is the third driver on the list. Albers and Saelens are reportedly trying to find the budget to secure the F1 seat, but it seems that team boss Paul Stoddart will most likely choose between Saelens and Morbidelli. Earlier this week reports claimed that Saelens had signed for the European Minardi F3000 team, but while Andrea Piccini was announced at the team, no official confirmation has been made about Saelens. Whatever happens with the F1 seat, it appears that either Albers, said to be favoured by Stoddart, or Saelens will be racing in the F3000 team next year. News from the Netherlands courtesy of Geert Barentsen.

 

11th February 2001 - International F3000:

Luis Diaz

Diaz ruled out of F3000 by budget problems Despite successfully applying for an International licence, "El Chapulin" Luis Diaz will almost certainly not be competing in International F3000 this season. The Mexican released an emotional press release stating that he couldn't find the necessary budget, so he has been forced to abandon the idea. Diaz said [translated]: "I am thankful infinitely to Alain Prost for the great opportunity that he gave me, when opening to me the doors of his Formula 3000 team, and I am thankful to all the companies that have believed in me, to Telmex and Quaker State that had already offered me their economic support to make this project that promised much for our country." He added: "...I know that I made my best effort and I gave one hundred percent of me to represent with dignity Mexico abroad." Former Indy Lights driver Diaz was strongly expected to race for Prostar, who even sent him the contract ready to sign once he had found the budget, but the money never materialised. Reports earlier claimed that he had only found enough backing to do the first four races of the season. His hopes were dashed when Nicolas Filiberti was confirmed as a driver and Gabriele Varano was also said to have signed this week. (Sources: Sporcar / with thanks to Jose Ramon Galan).

 

11th February 2001 - International F3000:

Nordic Racing test in Spain This week Coca-Cola Nordic Racing were testing in Spain, on an 8km circuit with two 2km straights and two banked 2km corners, according to the Yahoo Justin Wilson Club. Wilson himself commented that this week he was set to do straight-line testing only. The team now go on to Imola for the first official tests of the year in the coming week. Justin commented that Nordic will probably be running the cars without sponsor names showing until the Silverstone official test in March.

 

11th February 2001 - International F3000:

Details on Red Bull Junior Valencia testing Red Bull Junior had their first test of the season at Valencia at the start of this month. Austria's Patrick Friesacher continued the set-up work he had begun last year, while Spain's Antonio Garcia had to start from scratch. He drove a Lola for the team at Barcelona last year, but that was the car of Enrique Bernoldi which was set-up for the Brazilian. At Valencia Friesacher was apparently the quickest of the pair, but his times reportedly dropped off as the tyres were worn while Garcia continued to improve, leaving him optimistic for the forthcoming Imola tests. On the same day Team Astromega also tested with drivers Giorgio Pantano and Ananda Mikola. According to the Antonio Garcia official site (2/2/01), at no time did Astromega approach the times set by Red Bull Junior. However, according to Team Brask, Pantano set a time which improved on the previous best in official FIA testing at the Spanish circuit.

 

11th February 2001 - International F3000:

Prost confirm F3 & FRenault junior teams On Friday it was confirmed that Prost will be running additional junior teams to their F3000 operation this season. As expected, Prost has become affiliated to Formula 3 team RC Motorsport, formerly Benetton's F3 arm, and with Cram Competition in Formula Renault. Nicolas Kiesa (DK) remains with RC Motorsport in British F3, where he will be partnered by Ryan Dalziel (GB). Cram Competition will compete in the Italian and Eurocup Formula Renault series as last year, with drivers Popo Bueno (BR), Fausto Ippoliti (I), Alessandro Vitacolonna (I) and Ronnie Quintarelli (I). Formula Chevrolet champion Bueno is set to sign a management contract with Power Marketing, the company set up by Prost's Pedro Diniz. The aim of the new "staircase of talent" structure is to train new talent at every level for the F1 team, so it would be little surprise if any of the aforementioned drivers race for Prost's F3000 team in the coming years. It appears that drivers at each level will be invited to test the machinery of one level above, so Kiesa and Dalziel are likely to have an outing in an F3000 Lola sometime this year. (Sources: f1total.com / Zaz.com.br)

 

11th February 2001 - International F3000:

Alonso in the European Minardi F1 car

More on Albers' Varano test Christijan Albers tested for the European Minardi F3000 team at Varano, Northern Italy last week, while Minardi's F1 car and the 2-seater project car were also in action on the press day. While Albers shook-down the F3000 car, Fernando Alonso (pictured) drove the Minardi F1 car, in an interim black livery, while team boss Paul Stoddart himself took guests for rides in the 2-seater car, last year run under the Arrows name like the F3000 team. Stoddart said the purpose of the test was to bring together the cars and crew so that the English-based staff could get to know the Italian Faenza-based staff, and also to blow the "cobwebs" which had formed over the winter break away. He said they had obviously collected no technical data from the shakedown, but that for the team it was an important occasion.

 

11th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Corbari wants Eurosport coverage for Euro F3000 In an interview at autosportnews.com last month, Euro F3000 organiser Pierluigi Corbari commented that it would appeal to him to have his series shown on pan-European sports channel Eurosport. Such a move would bring coverage to the English speaking world, whereas previously the series (as Italian F3000) has been broadcast only on Rai3, RaiSat and Pitlane. In addition video footage of the races had been given to the drivers, resulting in some broadcast minutes in Brazil (Teleglobo), Australia, Yugoslavia and in the USA. Video clips are also available to view on Derek Hill's website. Corbari estimates that the series has therefore been exposed to a total of 400 million people. Despite this, the lack of TV coverage outside Italy will not be acceptable if the series is to continue its upward trend. The graduation of 2000 champion Ricardo Sperafico to the championship-winning Petrobras Junior International F3000 team has raised the series' profile. The preceeding year's champion, Giorgio Vinella, went on to relative obscurity, despite a Minardi testing contract. Corbari commented that attendance at races has increased since the first year of the series. In 2000 there was an average turnout of 6-7000 people, with 8000 at Monza and 15,000 at Enna-Pergusa, where International F3000 traditionally raced for many years.

 

11th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Uncertainty over Varano deal It is not clear whether Gabriele Varano has joined Prostar or not for this season. This week SportsYa! Argentina mentioned that he would partner Nicolas Filiberti at the team, but we have heard no official announcement on whether the Italian has signed or not. Certainly Luis Diaz has been ruled out of the drive due to budget problems (see separate story).

 

10th February 2001 - International F3000:

Leinders and Camathias join KTR The remaining F3000 seats are continuing to fill up fast, with KTR the latest team to confirm its drivers. According to a Belgian newspaper, Bas Leinders returns to the team of fellow Belgian Kurt Mollekens, where he will be joined by Swiss/Austrian driver Joël Camathias. Leinders raced for KTR in 1999, his first full season, before moving to Kid Jensen Racing last year. Camathias finished ninth overall in the Formula Nissan championship last year with Scuderia Fama. He has already tested for Coloni, Fortec and Kid Jensen Racing this winter. News supplied thanks to Wim van den Bunder.

 

10th February 2001 - International F3000:

Gabriele Varano

Varano in surprise Prost Jr deal According to SportsYa! Argentina, Gabriele Varano has been confirmed as the team-mate to Nicolas Filiberti at Prostar (Prost Jr.) this season. The news is a major surprise, as Mexico's Luis Diaz had agreed to race for the team, but it appears reported budget problems halted his bid. Varano tested for Prostar (formerly Gauloises Formula) this winter as well as for Petrobras Junior and Super Nova. He is a former Italian F3 frontrunner, taking 5th overall in 1999 with RC Motorsport, and he graduated to Italian F3000 last season. Varano raced only four times for Team Ghinzani in the championship, finishing 11th in the series. He would have raced for the full season, but licence problems prevented him from making the grid at the start of the year.

 

10th February 2001 - International F3000:

Filiberti in Prost debut at Lurcy-Levis New Prostar signing Nicolas Filiberti had his first run in one of the junior Prost team's F3000 Lolas at Lurcy-Levis in France this week. The Argentinian completed 20 laps of the 2700m circuit near Nevers, before rain forced the team to abandon testing. Filiberti will resume testing in the first official meeting of the year at Imola next week (14th/15th February). At the same time Gabriele Varano was announced as the second Prostar driver (see story above). (Source: SportsYa! Argentina)

 

10th February 2001 - International F3000:

Fontana's slim hopes rest on Fortec and Coloni According to SportsYa! Argentina, Norberto Fontana had not given up hope of returning to F3000, despite the fact that he has lost his chance of a drive at Super Nova. The Argentinian hoped to race for David Sears' team, but those hopes were dashed when Mark Webber and Mario Haberfeld were signed. It was reported on Wednesday that Fontana was in negotiations with both Fortec and Coloni, and that his good relationship with Sears could see the Englishman assist him in getting a drive. He has also been mentioned in Japan as a rumoured driver at the 5Zigen Formula Nippon team. Fontana's main stumbling block has been finding the necessary economic support to continue his International career. Now it appears that if he fails to secure such a budget, he is imminently to sign for Toyota in the Turesmo Carretera (TC2000) touring car series.

 

10th February 2001 - Formula Nippon:

Formula Nippon private testing at CP MINE - Lyons makes debut Joint private Formula Nippon testing was held at the Central Park MINE circuit earlier this week, with three teams - Nova, Dandelion and Mooncraft - taking part. Hideki Noda topped the timesheets for Dandelion, where he is said to be confirmed. An interesting participant was Richard Lyons. The Northern Irishman, the 1999 Formula Palmer Audi runner-up, was an impressive second fastest for Nova in his first Nippon test, and appears to be the latest European seeking a drive in the series. He is now considered a contender for a drive at Nova. Hiro Miyamoto, sixth in Formula Dream this season, was sixth fastest for Mooncraft, where he is said to be confirmed. The two-day test saw mixed conditions, with the fast times set when the track was dry. PIAA Nakajima have also annnounced that they will test at MINE on Wednesday 21st to Friday 23rd February (10:00-12:00 and 14:00-16:00), with Tsugio Matsuda and Ralph Firman. Times from Formula Nippon official site courtesy of Tooru Kitajima and Nicolas Korzan.

Formula Nippon private testing, Mine (J), 5th-6th February 2001

Pos.

No.

Driver

Team

Time

1

68

Hideki Noda (J)

Dandelion

1'15.450

2

10

Richard Lyons (GB)

Nova

1'15.466

3

10

Daisuke Itou (J)

Nova

1'15.676

4

9

Andre Couto (MAC)

Nova

1'16.049

5

77

Jaroslaw Wierczuk (PL)

Dandelion

1'16.330

6

14

Hiro Miyamoto (J)

Mooncraft

1'17.219

 

10th February 2001 - Formula Nippon:

Karthikeyan signed for Impul? According to the Ralph Firman Supporters' Site, British F3 front-runner Narain Karthikeyan has signed to race for Impul this season. The Indian was tipped as the favourite to land the drive alongside Satoshi Motoyama, but we await confirmation.

 

10th February 2001 - Formula Nippon:

Noda/Wierczuk confirmed at Dandelion 2-car effort? Hideki Noda, sometime F1 driver, has been confirmed as moving to DoCoMo Dandelion, according to the Ralph Firman Supporters' Site. Also said to be confirmed at the team, expanding to a two-car effort if they can find the money (source: Takagi B1 site BBS), is Poland's Jaroslaw Wierczuk. Both drivers ran in private testing at CP MINE this week, Wierczuk in a #77 car. News thanks to Nicolas Korzan.

 

10th February 2001 - Formula Nippon:

Miyamoto joins Mooncraft; Shibahara at Leyjun Hiro Miyamoto, sixth in the Formula Dream promotional formula last season, has been confirmed at Mooncraft according to the Ralph Firman Supporters' Site. The jump to Formula Nippon from the series is considered a large one. Miyamoto partners the experienced Ryo Michigami. Meanwhile the same site claims that Shinsuke Shibahara has been confirmed at Leyjun.

 

10th February 2001 - International F3000:

Pantano beats testing pace in Valencia Astromega shakedown Giorgio Pantano conducted a shakedown test with Team Astromega at Valencia on Thursday (1st) and Friday (2nd) of last week. The Italian set a "searing pace", lapping under the previous best time set in official FIA testing at the Spanish circuit. Giorgio and the team were said to be extremely pleased. Pantano also drove for McLaren F1 at Jerez on the Tuesday and Wednesday of the same week. He ran for nearly 90 laps and was said to have done an excellent job. Pantano commented: "The West McLaren Mercedes team were very professional and friendly. Their attention to detail and the effort they put in was an eye-opener in what effort goes into running a top team in F1". David Coulthard, Mika Hakkinen, Darren Turner and Alex Wurz were all present and Gary Paffett also drove as part of his prize for winning the 1999 McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award. (Source: Team Brask)

 

10th February 2001 - International F3000:

Haberfeld's confidence boosted by ex-Hakkinen engineer Mario Haberfeld's Super Nova Lola will be engineered by Rob Creswell, the man who worked with two-time World Champion Mika Hakkinen when he was in British F3. Creswell was the engineer on David Saelens' car last year, and Haberfeld said he was pleased to be working with the Englishman. He had previously worked with Creswell in Formula Ford in 1995, and also in 1996 in Formula Renault. Haberfeld told SportsYa! Brazil [translated]: "The fact I have worked with him in Renault leaves me confident, since that is an excellent school in such a way for pilots as it is for engineers." He added [translated]: "Rob went to great lengths to show everything to me that is being done in the car and had immediate replies for all my questions."

 

10th February 2001 - Formula Nippon:

Correction: Yoong racing for main LeMans team, not second squad Alex Yoong is racing for the main Team Le Mans squad this season, not a secondary "Team Malaysia by Le Mans" outfit as last year. Apologies for any confusion. It is unclear whether his car will retain the Malaysia name and continue to race as number 21 now that he has moved to the main team. Yudai Igarashi is likely to be his teammate.

 

10th February 2001 - International F3000:

Interlagos schedule released The schedule for the Brazilian GP, which is supported by round 1 of the International F3000 championship, has been released. The F3000 race on March 31st, the first championship round to be held outside of Europe, will comprise 35 laps of the anti-clockwise circuit. Qualifying on Friday 30th takes place at 14:30-15:15 and at 15:45-16:30. On Saturday 30th the grid will form at 14:30 and the "1st GP do Brasil de F3000" will run from 15:00 to 16:30. (Source: SportsYa! Brazil)

 

10th February 2001 - International F3000:

International F3000 test at Montreal? According to SportsYa! Brazil, there will be an International F3000 "test" at Montreal, Canada, on the same weekend as this year's Canadian Grand Prix (8th-10th June). It is unclear whether this is a test, or in fact a race (possibly a late addition/replacement on the calendar?), due to fact that the original article was automatically translated from Portuguese. Travelling to Canada for a test doesn't seem too likely... However, there is a gap of three weeks between Hockenheim testing (30th/31st May) and round 6 at the Nurburgring (23rd June). It is known that Montreal is pushing for an F3000 race in the future, where it would join Interlagos in hosting pioneering rounds outside of Europe. Any further details would be much appreciated.

 

9th February 2001 - International F3000:

Albers in frame for Minardi F1 seat! It has emerged that Christijan Albers is one of three drivers on the shortlist for a race seat with European Minardi F1 to partner Fernando Alonso, according to http://www.formule1.nl/. The Dutchman had a meeting with team boss Paul Stoddart on Wednesday, believing the subject of discussion would be an F3000 deal. The following day he told "De Telegraaf": "I was stunned when Stoddart and manager Rupert Manwaring told me I was on their shortlist for the second F1 seat in their team. I don't know who the other two candidates are, but the fact that I'm in the picture is quite spectacular." Albers was previously rumoured to keep his F3000 seat with Stoddart's operation, but Andrea Piccini has already been confirmed and David Saelens is likely to take the other seat (see story below). Gianni Morbidelli is one other name to be mentioned in relation to the available F1 seat. (News from the Netherlands courtesy of Geert Barentsen).

 

9th February 2001 - International F3000:

Piccini joins European Minardi and clinches F1 test deal Andrea Piccini has signed to race for European Minardi in this season's International F3000 championship. In a surprise announcement, the Italian will also be Minardi's official F1 test driver. Piccini said: "I am very pleased to be driving for the team, it is a strong, well run organisation that is capable of preparing winning cars. It is also very important for my career that I start preparing for Formula 1, so the opportunity to become test driver is very exciting. I intend to use the experience to learn as much as possible, improve my driving, and hopefully help the F1 team to develop its car during the season. It's a great opportunity." Piccini, 22, raced for Kid Jensen Racing in the past two seasons. He showed flashes of form in his debut 1999 season alongside Nicolas Minassian, including a fifth place at the A1-Ring, but last year was a disaster for the entire team. Nevertheless, Piccini scored the team's only points of the year with a fourth at Hockenheim. His partner at European Minardi looks set to be David Saelens, who was announced as a driver on Belgian TV and on his website. However, Christijan Albers was also believed to be in the frame as well, the Dutchman reportedly being in favour with Paul Stoddart, but he has also been linked to a Minardi F1 seat (see separate story). Albers, who took part in Formula Nippon testing this winter, tested for European Minardi at a press day recently and had been due to test again at Imola next week.

 

9th February 2001 - International F3000:

Benetton colours in F3000

Super Nova to run in Benetton colours; Renault Jr status in 2002? Super Nova's two cars will run in a Benetton-style livery this season, according to Motoring News and Autosport. In addition, the team may become an official Renault junior squad in 2002. Such junior team status was initially proposed for this season, but the fact that Fernando Alonso opted to drive for Minardi in F1 meant that Super Nova will only be running one Renault contracted driver, Mark Webber, and hence will retain its independence. Webber will be partnered by Mario Haberfeld. A full Benetton livery was last seen in International F3000 in 1999, when Team Astromega (pictured, left) ran in the sky-blue colours due to their signing of driver Justin Wilson. Last season Durango Formula became the Durango Benetton Junior Team (pictured, right) in F3000 Italia, an official squad complementing RC Benetton Junior in British F3. It is unclear whether Durango will retain its Benetton junior status for its Int'l F3000 return, although the Super Nova news means it is highly unlikely.

 

9th February 2001 - Formula Nippon:

Firman aims for title with Nakajima Ralph Firman has signed to race for PIAA Nakajima Planning, Autosport announced. The former British F3 champion leaves Nova Engineering, where he has concentrated on developing the G-Force chassis in recent years and took a single race victory. Firman commented that he intends to finish his Formula Nippon career this season by winning the title in one of Nakajima's Reynards. He is partnered by Tsugio Matsuda, a race winner last year in his rookie season with the team. Toranosuke Takagi, now graduating to CART, dominated last year's championship with Nakajima Planning.

 

9th February 2001 - International F3000:

Filiberti confirmed at Prostar Nicolas Filiberti of Argentina has been confirmed as a driver of the Prost junior team, Prostar, in F3000 this season. Having lost their Gauloises backing, this season the squad require a South American in the team as they share Prost GP's PSN sponsorship. Filiberti has limited Formula 3000 experience. In 1999 he made his debut in the Italian F3000 series, racing 5 times for Durango Formula, his best results a pair of 8th places. That season he also attempted to qualify for an International round at Budapest for the Italian team, but with the oversubscribed grids he failed to make the cut. Last week Filiberti was one of a number of drivers to learn Interlagos in SudAm F3 machinery ahead of the opening F3000 round at the circuit next month.

 

9th February 2001 - International F3000:

van Hooydonk chases Prost seat According to Motoring News, Belgian Jeffrey van Hooydonk has emerged as another contender for the final Prost junior (Prostar) seat. Nicolas Filiberti has been confirmed in one seat (see separate story), while Mexico's Luis Diaz was expected to in the other. However, the Indy Lights driver has apparently been struggling to find the budget for a full season, meaning former Witmeur KTR driver van Hooydonk has a chance of joining the PSN-backed team. Christian Murchison was also strongly linked to a drive late last year.

 

9th February 2001 - International F3000:

Scheckter to race in Formula Nissan? According to Autosport, Tomas Scheckter is considering racing in Formula Nissan this season alongside his Jaguar F1 testing duties. The South African tested for Vergani Racing recently, having made a successful series debut at the end of 1999. He had previously commented that he would only be doing a few races this year to avoid distractions from his F1 programme, but the fact that Formula Nissan doesn't clash with his Jaguar commitments and that it is a series with a relatively small number of rounds has convinced him otherwise. Scheckter competed in International F3000 and Italian F3000 briefly last year, with McLaren and Da Vinci respectively, taking a second place race result in each series alongside his British F3 campaign with Stewart.

 

9th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Orbit Motorsport to run in ISSC Orbit Motorsport are one of a number of teams to express interest in the new International Single Seater Series (ISSC) to make its debut this year. The British ex-touring car squad, based at Silverstone and run by Roy Kennedy, competed briefly in Italian F3000 last year, before their affiliation with Team Astromega collapsed. They plan to return to the series, now Euro F3000, and presumably will run a second team in the ISSC, which uses a specially built Reynard chassis.

 

9th February 2001 - International F3000:

New Grand Prix Masters series revealed, but F3000 teams banned Motoring News has received details of a proposed new "Grand Prix Masters" series which would run in 2002. The series, aimed at professionally retired Grand Prix drivers such as Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell, would emulate similar series in other sports such as golf. Single-make F1 style cars with 3.5 litre engines would be used, much like in the Premier 1 GP series also proposed for 2002, while races would be held on weekends not clashing with F1 Grands Prix. Current F1 and F3000 teams will be banned from taking part in the series. The Premier 1 Grand Prix series announced last year for up-and-coming drivers was much criticised and dismissed for its concept of football teams backing cars. Speculation at the time said that current F3000 teams could move into the formula, since graduating into F1 is virtually impossible.

 

7th February 2001 - International F3000:

European Minardi sign Saelens It has been confirmed that Belgium's David Saelens has signed for European Minardi for the forthcoming season. Belgian TV stated that Saelens will probably also test for Minardi in F1 alongside his F3000 programme. Saelens himself had earlier stated he was looking for an F1 testing deal. The former French F3 champion made his F3000 debut in 1999 with WRT Fina, but soon switched to Super Nova where he remained last season, clinching an equal 6th spot in the title chase. His season was surrounded by controversy after a series of incidents which saw him fall out with Prost Jr's Sebastien Bourdais. He was also held back by a shoulder problem, although he claims the pain has completely gone now. He resumed training in December. The second driver at European Minardi could be Christijan Albers, who raced for Paul Stoddart's team last year when it was European Arrows. The Dutchman has been testing for the team and is due to run again in the forthcoming official Imola test. (Sources: David Saelens, with thanks to readers Geert and Wim)

 

7th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Biagi stays at GP Racing Thomas Biagi will remain at GP Racing for this season's Euro F3000 championship, according to Autosportnews. The Italian F3000 veteran took his only F3000 win with Tancredi Pagiaro's team in last year's Italian F3000 non-championship race at Assen. Biagi said [translated]: "The third season with GP demonstrates that I am in a position to construct with the team adapted long-lasting relationships." Gabriele Gardel is also retained by the team for another season.

 

7th February 2001 - Formula 3000:

Cristian Ledesma, photo (c)SportsYa!

Ledesma looks at F3000 move Argentinian Turismo Carretera (TC2000) driver Cristian Ledesma is set to test for an "important" F3000 team, reveals SportsYa! Argentina, and plans to compete outside of Argentina. The 25-year old has competed in TC2000 for the last two years since he could not find the budget to race in Europe after a successful period in Formula Super Renault. Ledesma has been taken under the wings of Eduardo Ramirez, the manager of Prost GP driver Gaston Mazzacane. Ramirez is said to be organizing a series of tests with "an important team" in F3000. It is not clear whether this means a team in International F3000 or Euro F3000.

 

7th February 2001 - Formula Nippon:

Couto set to decide on Morinaga Nova seat Former F3000 driver and Macau GP winner Andre Couto is set to opt for Formula Nippon with Morinaga Team Nova rather than race in CART, the Alex Yoong Press office have "reliably learned". The Macanese tested for Champ Car team Dale Coyne Racing last month, but it appears he will instead opt for Japan for a fourth year of competition at this level.

 

7th February 2001 - Formula Nippon:

Alex Yoong in pre-season training

Yoong looking forward to new season Malaysia's Alex Yoong has spoken about his hopes for the forthcoming Formula season. The former F3000 and F3000 Italia driver has re-signed to race for Team Malaysia by Le Mans for a second season. Alex has been following a strict 6-days-a-week training programme (pictured) to prepare for the new season. He reports to the National Sports Institute in Bukit Jalil daily for his workout under the watchful eyes of physical trainer Jorg Teichmann of Germany, who is the National Sports Institute's chief physical trainer. His workout includes gym work for strength building and track work for stamina and endurance. In addition there is a twice weekly 10km cross-country run through the hills and surrounding jungles of Kuala Lumpur. He commented: "I feel good and I'm sure I'll be physically prepared. I've added 3 kg to my mass which aids strength. It is a great opportunity given by my sponsors as well as Japan Race Promotion and Team LeMans to be with the same outfit plus the opportunity to have a team mate within the main LeMans team this year. Last year without a proper team mate, it was pretty much a case of playing blind man's bluff for me especially after the round 1 shunt when the team and I had to play catch-up all year long. I am looking forward to start testing from the beginning of March and am positive we can be competitive from the beginning." Alex's team-mate at the expanded Malaysia by Le Mans team could be Yudai Igarashi, a fellow driver with British F3 experience. Yoong's backing for the season secured so far includes Brylcreem, TAG Heuer, KONICA, Neuroweb Malaysia, Japan Race Promotion and Team LeMans. He is under active negotiations in both Malaysia and in Japan to secure the remainder of his 2001 budget. (Source: Alex Yoong Press Office)

 

7th February 2001 - Formula Nippon:

Firman set to join Matsuda at champion team Ralph Firman is looking increasingly likely to race for PIAA Nakajima, the team which dominated last year's championship, alongside Tsugio Matsuda according to the Alex Yoong Press Office. After leaving Morinaga Nova he had otherwise been linked to a move to America, having tested in Indy Lights and IRL. In other Formula Nippon news, British F3 graduate Narain Karthikeyan is still in negotiations with Kazuyoshi Hoshino's Team IMPUL, where Japanese reports have strongly linked him to a drive. Meanwhile Yudai Igarashi could drive in the second Team Malaysia by Le Mans entry.

 

7th February 2001 - International F3000:

Alonso signs for Minardi; Benetton in 2003? It was finally announced today that Spain's Fernando Alonso has signed to race in F1 for Minardi this season. The 19-year old graduated to International F3000 last year with Team Astromega, having won the Formula Nissan title the year before. He improved throughout the year and took a dominant debut win in the final round at Spa, elevating himself to fourth overall in the standings. Alonso moves from 2000 season test driver into a Minardi race seat but remains contracted to Benetton/Renault. He is on loan to Minardi as Renault's Flavio Briatore wants him to have F1 experience should he be required to drive for his team in 2003, when Jenson Button is set to return to Williams. New Minardi boss Paul Stoddart said: "We've had our eye on Fernando for some time. We're delighted to have signed him. Any driver who can come into the ultra-competitive world of Formula 3000 and, in his second season of single-seater racing, win at a circuit like Spa is clearly a bit special. He is going to be a great addition to the team, and I know he will help us hit some of the ambitious targets we are setting for European Minardi F1." No decision on Alonso's team-mate has yet been made, but Gianni Morbidelli has been linked to the drive which is likely to go to someone with F1 experience. Alonso was bombarded with F3000 offers at the end of 2000, but decided to hold out for the F1 seat. He was most recently linked to Super Nova, which was rumoured to run two Benetton contracted drivers, Alonso and Mark Webber. Last week it was confirmed that Webber would be partnered by Brazil's Mario Haberfeld.

 

7th February 2001 - Formula Nippon:

de la Rosa joins Prost as test driver It was confirmed today that former Formula Nippon champion Pedro de la Rosa has signed a two-year deal with Prost in F1, initially as test and reserve driver. Speculation continues however that he may replace Gaston Mazzacane in a race seat, as he matches PSN's requirements for a Spanish speaking driver, but has a considerably better record than Mazzacane.

 

5th February 2001 - International F3000:

Pizzonia testing at Interlagos on Friday

Pizzonia, Haberfeld, Filiberti and Oliveira test at Interlagos Four drivers have been testing at Interlagos in Brazil in SudAm F3 machinery ahead of the opening F3000 round next month. Antonio Pizzonia, Mario Haberfeld, Nicolas Filiberti and Joao Paolo Oliveira have followed in the footsteps of Derek Hill by travelling to Brazil in order to learn the circuit and gain an advantage over their opposition. Haberfeld set the best time on Thursday, 1m34.09s, driving a Dallara F300 for Amir Nasr Racing. Filiberti, with Cesario Formula, clocked 1:34.58, while Pizzonia with Amir Nasr set a best time of 1:34.84. Conditions varied from wet on Wednesday to dry on Thursday. Haberfeld commented on the advantages of the changing conditions [translated]: "As the F3000 race is going to be in March, the possibility of rain can't be discarded." Haberfeld also raced in the Brazilian 1000 Miles sportscar race at the circuit the preceding weekend, but otherwise his last appearance at the anti-clockwise track was in 1994 in Formula Ford. The 1998 British F3 champion commented [translated]: "The F3 cars are excellent, the memories that I have of them are very good. But what matters most is that they give the information on the best set-up. Despite being different cars, the F3 set-ups give a good idea of those to use in F3000 to arrive at the ideal behaviour." Pizzonia stayed on for an extra day at the track, continuing to run on Friday (pictured) when he completed 70 laps and improved his time to 1:33.80. Team boss Amir Nasr said [translated]: "We conclude that for Pizzonia the 70 laps of this Friday had been used to the advantage of those the previous days. In the end he was satisfied and has learned the tracing of Interlagos well." Three of the four drivers testing have reportedly signed deals to race in F3000. Two of them, Pizzonia (Petrobras Junior) and Haberfeld (Super Nova) have been made official, while Filiberti is expected to be confirmed at Prostar. Oliveira meanwhile is said to be negotiating with three teams. (Source: SportsYa! Brazil. Photo © SportsYa)

 

5th February 2001 - International F3000:

Filiberti a confirmed F3000 competitor? According to SportsYa! Brazil, Argentine driver Nicolas Filiberti is already a "guaranteed" International F3000 competitor this season. Despite no official announcement as yet, Filiberti is expected to race for the PSN-sponsored Prost junior team, Prostar. He was one of a number of drivers to test an F3 car at Interlagos last week (see separate story).

 

5th February 2001 - International F3000:

Oliveira negotiating with three teams SudAm F3 runner-up Joao Paolo Oliveira, who has declared his intent to race in International F3000 this season, is in negotiations with three teams according to SportsYa! Brazil.

 

5th February 2001 - International F3000:

Albers tests for European Minardi in Italy Christijan Albers tested for European Minardi at Vairano, Italy, over the weekend, according to F3000 Today / Fast Company. The Dutchman raced for European Arrows last year, and is a contender to hold onto his seat now that the team has become the Minardi junior squad. European boss Paul Stoddart is said to be very satisfied with him. Albers, who has also been looking at Formula Nippon options this winter, is due to test again for the squad in the first official tests at Imola this month.

 

4th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Latest on Euro F3000 entries; 50% of drives taken? Prorace claims that more than 50% of the available places to drivers in the inaugural Euro F3000 series have already been taken. Two seats at "Team Great Wall", formerly First GP, will go to two Chinese drivers. Negotiations are said to be underway for seats at a number of teams: John Village Automotive, Martello, Orbit, Sighinolfi, Monaco Motorsport, Uboldi Corse, Arden, CF Motorsport and Durango. John Village looks set to enter a team in his own name, having run squads for Edenbridge and Arden in the past two Italian F3000 seasons. Orbit Motorsport is returning to the series after pulling out last year when the team parted company with affiliate squad Astromega. Durango will continue to run a team at this level, despite successfully applying to return to the International series. The Italian squad previously ran two F3000 teams in 1999.

 

4th February 2001 - Euro F3000:

First GP goes Chinese According to Prorace, First GP will be renamed "Team Great Wall" this season, and is set to run two Chinese drivers. Their identity at present is unknown. The inaugural Euro F3000 series had already been linked to the country, when a two-race mini-series was rumoured for this January at the Zhuhai circuit.

 

2nd February 2001 - International F3000:

Webber (L) and Haberfeld (R)

Super Nova sign Webber and Haberfeld It was announced today that Super Nova have signed Mark Webber and Mario Haberfeld for the 2001 season. Webber was last year's most successful rookie with European Arrows, finishing third overall in the championship. He will test for Benetton in F1 alongside his F3000 commitments. The Australian said: "I'm looking forward to working with Super Nova. I hope I can give them the results that they are used to. Together we will obviously be challenging very, very hard for the championship, which is my goal for the start of the season." Brazil's Haberfeld has competed in F3000 since 1999, first with West Competition (McLaren junior) and then with Fortec Motorsport. Last season he suffered a leg injury in a Barcelona qualifying crash that forced him to miss three races. He is yet to score points in the series after graduating as the 1998 British F3 champion. He commented: "It is a great opportunity for me this year as Super Nova is one of the best teams in F3000. I think now, after two years in F3000, I have a good knowledge of the circuits. I have recently been testing at Interlagos [which hosts the opening round in March] and I feel it will be of advantage to me. I am just very happy after long negotiations with Super Nova it is now finalised." Team boss David Sears said: "It has taken us a long time to make our decision. In Mark Webber we have a proven race winner and one of the title favourites. With Mario Haberfeld we have a very underrated F3000 driver, although we know his pedigree up to F3 level when he won the championship in 1998. We know we have the ability as a team to extract the best performance from both drivers." Now that the most sought after seats in F3000 are taken, it is expected that the other drivers chasing a Super Nova deal will be snapped up by other F3000 teams at an increased pace. With the confirmation that Fernando Alonso will not be joining the team, it is now highly unlikely that Super Nova will become the junior Renault team based on Sears' recent comments.

 

1st February 2001 - Formula Nippon / F1:

De la Rosa to play waiting game at Prost? Former Formula Nippon champion Pedro de la Rosa, dumped by Arrows in favour of Enrique Bernoldi, has been linked to Prost in strong rumours in Spain. The French team's driver Gaston Mazzacane reportedly has a clause in his contract which means that if he isn't at the same level as team-mate Jean Alesi during the first three or four Grands Prix, Prost reserve the right to demote him to test driver. Spanish correspondant Jose Ramon Galan reveals that strong rumours of de la Rosa joining Prost are growing. The Repsol-backed driver commented today that he is not interested in joining Minardi, despite Giancarlo Minardi saying an all-Spanish line-up (of de la Rosa and Fernando Alonso) was likely at the Paul Stoddart-owned team.

 

1st February 2001 - International F3000:

European becomes Minardi junior team Paul Stoddart's purchase of Minardi means his European Formula F3000 team will be named "European Minardi F3000" from the coming season. All links with Arrows, whose junior team European operated last year, have now been severed. European's two-seater F1 car will also take the name Minardi. The 2001 F3000 season is the first time a Minardi junior team has been entered in the formula. The last time the Italian marque was involved was 1986, when Minardi Team Adolfo entered with converted 1985 F1 equipment. Minardi had been a works team in F3000's predecessor, European F2, before their move into F1 in 1985. Last year the Astromega Lola of Fernando Alonso shared Minardi's yellow livery, thanks to a mutual sponsor in Telefonica. Rumours growing in Spain suggest Pedro de la Rosa is set to sign for Minardi (see separate story), with his Repsol sponsorship dominating the team's livery. If this is the case, European Minardi may also run in an identical colour scheme, in the same way as European Arrows ran in the orange and black Arrows livery last year. Repsol have been an F3000 title sponsor before, Barcelona Motorsport running the Repsol SilkCut Racing team in 1988.

 

1st February 2001 - International F3000:

Webber confirmed at Super Nova?; Haberfeld could be team-mate Australia's Mark Webber has been all-but-confirmed at top team Super Nova after months of expectation. Webber was F3000's most successful rookie last year with European Arrows, winning at Silverstone on his way to third in the championship. Autosport today claimed he has joined Super Nova, where the former British F3 and FIA GT racer would be strongly tipped as the title favourite. However, it is not clear whether any official deal has been made at present. A decision on his team-mate is due shortly. Brazil's Mario Haberfeld, a veteran of two F3000 seasons, has emerged as a leading contender, reveals Autosport. Webber commented: "I know what I have to do to win the championship and I can't wait." Webber also spoke out against critics of Formula 3000, saying that they should watch the progress of two former champions, Juan Pablo Montoya and Nick Heidfeld, in F1 this season. Formula 3000 has been dismissed as a redundant formula with the likes of Jenson Button, Luciano Burti and Kimi Raikkonen bypassing it on the way to F1. Webber said: "People think F3000 drivers aren't best prepared for F1. But how come? We've all done Formula 3 before, which is where they are looking for the new talent at the moment. Juan Pablo Montoya and Nick Heidfeld will prove F3000's worth this year. If Heidfeld had joined McLaren last season, he would probably have finished fourth in the championship and F3000 would have been considered the business."

 

1st February 2001 - International F3000:

Webber to Minardi in 2002? New Minardi owner Paul Stoddart hinted today that likely Super Nova signing Mark Webber (see above) could race for his team in the future. Webber raced for Stoddart's European Arrows F3000 team last year, and the team owner has suggested the two Aussies could link up again: "You will find that when the right circumstances come along then it is not impossible to find Mark driving for an Australian owned team. We put on the best Olympics in history but cannot get behind an F1 driver." Benetton tester Webber could join Flavio Briatore-contracted Fernando Alonso in the team after an F3000 season with Super Nova. If such a driver line-up occurs, recent rumours of Minardi becoming a junior Benetton/Renault team may not be wide of the mark. Webber is unlikely to find a race seat at Benetton in 2002 with Jenson Button and Giancarlo Fisichella under contract.

 

1st February 2001 - International F3000:

Monaco Motorsport in bid for final F3000 place Monaco Motorsport have reportedly made a late bid to secure the final entry for the International F3000 series. According to Autosport, Frenchman Fabrice Walfisch is linked to the effort. Only fourteen of the fifteen team slots were filled before the FIA published its provisional entry list in December. Arden turned down the chance to run two teams in the series, while a bid by Astromega to enter a second squad was refused. Now Monaco Motorsport are set to fill the final place on the grid, following the example of Durango by returning after a year spent in the Italian series. Monaco already have two teams in place, as they also ran the Monaco Motorsport Junior Team alongside their main squad in Italian F3000.

 

1st February 2001 - Euro F3000:

Pörnbacher seals Ghinzani Euro F3000 drive Italian driver Armin Pörnbacher has been confirmed as team-mate to Alex Muller at Team Ghinzani for the Euro F3000 championship, reveals Autosport. Pörnbacher was 19th overall in German F3 this season with the Swiss Racing Team, while he also competed in the weak Italian F3 series. He tested an F3000 chassis for Durango late last month.

 

1st February 2001 - International F3000:

Derichebourg to make F3000 return? Frenchman Boris Derichebourg has been tipped to return to International F3000 by Motoring News. He has not been linked to any team in particular. Derichebourg raced for Astromega and Super Nova before switching to the short-lived Portman Arrows team in 1999. He then entered Indy Lights before moving to the FIA GT championship last year. His best F3000 results were a pair of third places.

 

1st February 2001 - International F3000:

Garcia definitely racing for Red Bull Antonio Garcia has been officially confirmed as team-mate to Patrick Friesacher at Red Bull Junior this season. The Formula Nissan champion was initially announced last December, but it appears the team may have retained an option to keep Enrique Bernoldi, who has since signed to race for Arrows in F1.

 

1st February 2001 - International F3000:

Astromega and Red Bull Junior to test in Spain Team Astromega and Red Bull Junior will test at Valencia, Spain, next week, reveals Motoring News. They will be the first teams after Durango to test this year.

 

1st February 2001 - International F3000:

Pantano in line for McLaren test drive role? Giorgio Pantano tested for F1 team McLaren at Jerez on Tuesday and Wednesday, and it has emerged he could be signed as a second test driver alongside Alex Wurz. McLaren wanted Ricardo Zonta to partner the Austrian, but were beaten to a contract by Jordan. Now German F3 champion Pantano is in with a chance of the prestigious seat. It is unclear whether a test contract alone would prevent Pantano from racing for Astromega in F3000 this year. The Italian has signed a deal with the team, but he has a get-out clause in case he is offered an F1 drive. British F3 Scholarship Class champion Gary Paffett was also due to test for the Woking squad today as his prize for winning the 1999 McLaren BRDC Young Driver Award. Brief Italian F3000 driver Darren Turner was also testing with McLaren.

 

1st February 2001 - International F3000:

Bruni opts for another F3 season Highly rated Italian Gianmaria Bruni has been ruled out of making his F3000 debut this season. Despite testing for Fortec, Coloni and Durango over the winter, Bruni has re-signed with Fortec to remain in the British F3 series alongside new team-mate Alex Gurney.

 

1st February 2001 - International F3000:

Alonso and de la Rosa to Repsol-backed Minardi? Strong rumours in Spain back up suggestions that Pedro de la Rosa, dumped by Arrows, will sign for Paul Stoddart's Minardi team. Fernando Alonso is already said to have signed for the team in Spain, although no confirmation has yet been made. Spanish correspondant Jose Ramon Galan reveals that de la Rosa is expected to bring his Repsol backing to the team, which would be run with a full Repsol colour scheme. If the rumours are true, Minardi are set to compete with two Spanish drivers, something Giancarlo Minardi backed up today when he said: "With the sudden availability of de la Rosa I do envisage an all-Spanish line-up." Both potential drivers have quite some pedigree at the F3000 level. De la Rosa was the 1997 Formula Nippon champion, absolutely dominating the season, while Alonso improved throughout his rookie F3000 season last year and took fourth overall with one win.

 

1st February 2001 - International F3000:

Bernoldi seals shock Arrows race deal F3000 graduate Enrique Bernoldi will race for Arrows in F1 next year, a surprise announcement revealed yesterday. The Brazilian, the 2000 Sauber test driver, replaces Pedro de la Rosa at the team and partners Jos Verstappen. Bernoldi, who raced for two seasons with Red Bull Junior in F3000, had been testing Arrows' AMT-powered chassis over the past week, but was only believed to be in contention for a test drive role. It was suggested he might consider it a better option than to race for Minardi where he was strongly tipped to partner Fernando Alonso. It now appears that Alonso is even more likely to be the "young charger" new owner Paul Stoddart wants at Minardi, while the second driver will be "someone with more experience". The dumped de la Rosa spoke out against Arrows' decision to drop him in favour of Bernoldi. The Spaniard was quoted in newspapers as saying: "It is a decision that I have to respect and they are fully within their rights. But I believe they have opted for quantity over quality. My intention is to keep driving in Formula One." He reportedly lost his drive as his sponsor Repsol had reduced its budget for 2001 and had argued with Arrows over the size and positioning of logos. Now he is likely to join Minardi (see separate story). It appears that Arrows have signed Bernoldi thanks to his Red Bull sponsorship. The drinks company have fallen out with Sauber over the Swiss team's decision to choose the inexperienced Kimi Raikkonen over Bernoldi. 

 

1st February 2001 - International F3000:

Hughes turned down F3000 offers for MG deal Italian F3000 runner-up Warren Hughes revealed he was given two offers of an F3000 deal after his successful campaign with Arden Team Russia. He told Autosport that a firm offer was made by an International F3000 team, while another offer was made by a Euro F3000 team. Instead the Brit has signed a two-year contract with MG, who are making an assault on the Le Mans 24 Hours. He is also set to compete in the relaunched British Touring Car Championship, but has conceded that F1 is no longer his goal.

 

1st February 2001 - International F3000:

No luck for Haberfeld in Brazil Brazilian F3000 driver Mario Haberfeld was out of luck in the Brazilian 1000 Miles race at Interlagos at the weekend. The race was delayed due to rain for three hours, and the BMW of Haberfeld and Nelson and Rodrigo Piquet retired in the pits after 6 hours. Haberfeld was handing the car over to the younger Piquet, but a mechanical problem meant it didn't return to the track. The race was won by the Stuttgart Motorsport GT3 Porsche of ex-F3000 star Max Wilson, Regis Schuch, Flavio Trindade and Andre Lara Resende. (Source: Zaz.com.br)

 

1st February 2001 - International F3000:

Edenbridge changes touring car plans Former F3000 team Edenbridge Racing has changed its plans for the coming season. Instead of competing in the British Touring Car Championship, Edenbridge will run its BMW 320i's in the Super Production Class of the FIA European Touring Car Championship, which benefits from live coverage on Eurosport. US Formula Ford 2000 front-runner James Hanson has been signed by Peter Briggs' team.

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