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Who drives for Minardi in South America?

WITH Japanese rent-a-driver Takichiho Inoue still trying to find the money to replace his missing Unimat sponsorship at Minardi, the little Italian team has been forced to continue to search for a driver who can supply the necessary finance.

Giancarlo Fisichella, who stood in for Inoue in the Australian Grand Prix proved himself to be very quick, but he does not have the backing the team needs if he is to secure the drive. The team cannot justify continuing to use Fisichella in the hope that this will generate results - and therefore money - because the Minardi M195B is not likely to score points this year.

Before Inoue grabbed the drive, Minardi was having discussions with three other drivers: Fisichella, Luca Badoer and TarsoÊMarques. Badoer has signed for Forti and so it is Brazilian Marques who moves into the frame as the man most likely to be hired. Marques is also very well connected with the team as he is a prot?g? of the new team manager Frederic Dhainaut.

Marques is only 20 years old but has been racing in Europe for two complete seasons in F3000, the second - including a victory at Estoril - with the DAMS team. Marques had been expected to stay with DAMS this year if he did not get an F1 ride but the team announced last week that it had hired two Elf-backed Frenchmen - Laurent Redon and Jean-Philippe Belloc - instead.

With all the major F3000 drives now gone, Marques has little to gain staying in the series and a deal with Minardi could be the obvious solution. The Brazilian is expected to test for Minardi at Fiorano tomorrow. If he does make his F1 debut in Brazil, he will be youngest F1 debutante since Mike Thackwell in 1980.

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