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Fittipaldi retires

EMERSON FITTIPALDI has officially retired from motor racing at the age of 50. The Brazilian says that he is giving up all "extreme" sports following his recent airplane accident in which he suffered a badly fractured vertebrae in his lower back - and partial paralysis in his left leg. He is now up and about again but is walking with a bad limp and needs more physiotherapy work on his leg.

The plane crash followed a 220mph racing crash at Michigan International Speedway in July 1996, which left Emerson with a fractured upper vertebrae.

Fittipaldi says he is looking at the possibility of setting up his own racing team - presumably in America. In 1972 Emerson became the youngest ever Formula 1 World Champion - at 25 - driving for the JPS Lotus team. In 1974 he won a second World title driving for Marlboro McLaren and then astounded the F1 community by quitting McLaren at the end of 1975 to drive for his brother Wilson's Copersucar-funded Fittipaldi team. This was never a success and it closed down in 1982.

In 1984 Emerson went to the United States and raced with WIT Racing in Indycars. After Chip Ganassi was seriously injured in an accident at Michigan International Speedway Fittipaldi took over his drive with Patrick Racing. The following year he won his first Indycar victory - at Michigan - and went on to win the Indycar title and the Indianapolis 500 in 1989. He then moved to Penske and won Indy again in 1993. By the time of his crash last summer he had won a total of 22 Indycar races to add to his 14 Grands Prix victories.

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