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Another bizarre move from BAR

PATRICK LEMARIE is said to be one of the most charming racing drivers one could ever wish to meet. He can converse on a wide variety of subjects and is entertaining company - but he has little qualification for the job of being a Formula 1 test driver - apart from the fact that he is a lifelong friend of Jacques Villeneuve.

The 30-year-old Frenchman was last week named as BAR test driver for 1999, usurping the position which had been held by Jean-Christophe Boullion, a man with tens of thousands of testing miles with Williams under his belt. BAR says that Lemarie impressed them with his feedback and his consistent lap times during the testing of a BAR-run Tyrrell at Silverstone in July. It is nonetheless a curious choice given some of the other drivers who are available at the moment to test F1 cars.

Lemarie finished second to Olivier Panis in the Volant Elf competition in 1997 and took the unusual decision to go straight into Formula 3 racing. This was a failure and in 1989 Lemarie went back to Formula Ford 1600. For the next three years he did moderately well, winning eight races and finishing runner-up to William David in 1989, third behind Boullion and EricŹAngelvy in 1990 (although Boullion scored almost double the number of points) and second to Franck Guibbert in 1991. He moved to F3 in 1992 with the Futura Team driving a TOMS-Toyota but quit after half a season. He spent two years in Formula Atlantic in the United States without any notable success and then tried the odd Formula 3000 races in 1996 and 1997 but made little impact with Pacific Racing and Ravarotto.

It is extremely doubtful that Lemarie would qualify for a Formula 1 Superlicence and it is expected that BAR will nominate someone else to be its reserve driver in the unlikely event that Villeneuve or Ricardo Zonta are unable to race.

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