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Nakano joins Minardi...

MINARDI has announced that it has signed a deal with Japanese driver Shinji Nakano for the 1998 season. The 26-year-old from Osaka - a protege of the Mugen company boss Hirotoshi Honda - joins the small Italian team after a lackluster season with Prost Grand Prix. He will partner 19-year-old Formula 1 new boy Esteban Tuero from Argentina. Both drivers are believed to be bringing considerable financial support to the team which will, no doubt, be used to build up the team for the longer-term.

Minardi has yet to announce its full sponsorship package and to date the car has only been seen running in a neutral grey color scheme, but it seems that there will be greatly increased support from Fondmetal - the wheel-making company owned by the Minardi team's chief shareholder Gabriele Rumi.

Fontana's support comes from Telecom Argentina, the Argentine TV station Telefe, from the Argentine GP organization itself and from the credit card company Visa. The backing from Visa highlights the current credit card war being fought in South America between Visa and Jordan Grand Prix sponsor Mastercard.

"I believed that Shinji may do exceedingly well this year," said team boss Giancarlo Minardi, "after the difficulties he had in 1997. These are inevitable in any debut season. Now he is no longer a newcomer, I won't deny that we expect a great deal from him."

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