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McLaren signs Castro-Neves

MCLAREN has signed a long-term driver contract with Brazilian CART driver Helio Castro-Neves. The 24-year-old Brazilian is currently racing for Carl Hogan's Lola-Mercedes team in the United States. A protege of Emerson Fittipaldi - a longtime Mercedes man - Castro-Neves was a multiple kart champion in Brazil before moving to Britain to race in Formula 3 in 1994. The following year he raced for Paul Stewart and finished third in the British series. He moved to the United States in 1996 and raced for Tasman Motorsports in Indy Lights and in 1997 finished runner-up in the series to his team-mate Tony Kanaan. He joined the Bettenhausen CART team last year and finished second in Milwaukee, although he was beaten to the Rookie of the Year Award by Kanaan.

While the announcement will do Castro-Neves no harm at all and will result in him being able to test for McLaren at some point in the future, it means that McLaren and Mercedes now have yet another driver in their young driver promotion scheme, alongside Ricardo Zonta and Nick Heidfeld. Mercedes-Benz is also supporting the careers of Mark Webber and Scotsman Peter Dumbreck.

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