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NOVEMBER 14, 2000

Webber confirms Benetton 2001 test drive

MARK WEBBER announced on Tuesday that he will be the official test driver for the 2001 season for the Benetton Formula One team.

Webber, 24, who tested for the Enstone-based team twice last season will take up testing duties with the team next month at Jerez, Spain.

Australian Webber confirmed the news at the launch of the 2001 Qantas Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne as he was unveiled in a Benetton car in front of the Premier of Victoria Steve Bracks and former Grand Prix driver Sir Jack Brabham.

Benetton confirmed the news soon after and Webber, who will also drive in the F3000 Championship for the Benetton Junior Team next season, cannot wait to support Jenson Button and Giancarlo Fisichella.

"It is a dream come true," said Webber. "It is a great buzz for me to be involved with the team next year in testing and developing the car. I just can't wait to get into it.

"With the manufacturers now so heavily involved in Formula One and the testing schedules, the development of the cars is so intense that the race drivers purely just can't do it all, so they are looking for a reliable third man.

"It is all about being with the team. I already have a good relationship with the team and over the winter and into next year they can rely on me and I can rely on them developing the car and going forward."

Webber, from Queanbeyan in New South Wales, drove for European Arrows in the F3000 Championship lasts season and was scheduled to test for Arrows Formula One team, but he failed to get in the car after contractual disagreements.

Benetton managing director Flavio Briatore said he was delighted with the appointment of Webber.

"When Webber tested the B200 this year we were impressed by his attitude and his skill," said Briatore. "I'm happy we can give him the opportunity to develop his Formula One experience as well as give him the chance to race in F3000."

Webber hopes that the move to Benetton will enhance his chances of lining up on the grid in Formula One in the future.

He added: "I'm here now and it is in my hands. I have got to perform now, as I have done up until now. This is a new beginning for me and I'm looking forward to putting my name on the map.

"I don't want to let the people of Australia down by not having somebody on the grid if I haven't given 100 per cent.

"I want to do that, but there are a lot of guys trying to get into Formula One and it won't be a tea party. But I'll give it my best shot."