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OCTOBER 9, 2000

Tifosi paint Italian towns red with victory festivities

THOUSANDS of fans took to the streets throughout Italy on Sunday in an outburst of national celebrations for Michael Schumacher's championship-deciding win in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

Within minutes of the checkered flag, cars poured out into the streets and piazzas as revellers waved Ferrari banners and Prancing Horse flags and honked their horns in the best tradition of Italian football achievements.

Congratulations were expressed all over the country for the team and Schumacher as he brought home the first Ferrari world title for 21 years.

"This is a victory for Italian technology over the biggest automobile companies in the world," said the president of Ferrari Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. "It's the best day of my professional life.

"I am moved to tears thinking about Enzo Ferrari and how finally we have brought the world championship home for him," declared Gianni Agnelli, honorary chairman of Ferrari parent company Fiat.

In the sleepy town of Maranello, Ferrari's hometown, church bells rang throughout the day and more than 20,000 people celebrated the win after sitting throughout the night in pouring rain while watching the race on a big screen in the central piazza.

"We have waited a long time for this and we will cherish the moment," remarked Giancarlo Bertacchini, the Mayor of Maranello, where more than half of the 1,800 workers at the Ferrari factory live.

President of the Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi took time off from military work to say: "Finally after 21 tears, all Italians are filled with joy because Ferrari has become a national symbol."

Culture Minister Giovanna Melandri added that the victory, which came in the wake of a truckload of medals won by the country's athletes in the Sydney Olympics, "has put Italy on the map again as a nation of sportsmen."

Banner headlines also embraced the country's leading newspapers. Milan-based sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport kicked off with: "Thank you Ferrari! Victory after 21 years, Italy celebrates."

The Rome sports daily Corriere dello Sport reported on its front page: "Ferrari World Champions: impeccable pit strategy allows Schumacher to overtake Hakkinen, who beat him off the line."

The serious broadsheet daily newspapers also dedicated massive coverage to the event.

La Republica commented: "Finally Ferrari after a 21-year dream," even

calling Michael Schumacher "an Italian champion," while Corriere della Sera headlined: "Schumacher champion, a Ferrari dream come true," saying that the win was "a victory for Drake (Enzo Ferrari), a legend in motorsport."