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NOVEMBER 22, 2000

Gene expresses gratitude to Minardi

SPANISH driver Marc Gene has expressed his gratitude to his former team Minardi after his move to Williams as their test driver for next season.

Gene had spent two years with the Italian team and believes that he has improved as a driver after spending time with Minardi.

"The good thing about Minardi is that they give an opportunity to young drivers to make a start in Formula One," Gene said. "Teams like Minardi are necessary and my time with the outfit has been a very valuable experience."

Regarding his new position, he added. "I think that it is preferable to be a test driver in a team that has won the world championship many times, rather than racing with a small team."

"The truth is that when Williams rang me I felt honored and didn't hesitate in taking up their offer."

The 26-year-old, who will also act as Williams' reserve race driver, pointed to the greater potential available to him at his new team and is looking forward to starting an intensive testing program.

"Williams is in a different class," he said. "Without counting the people working on the engine, the team has 300 people working for them and Minardi has little more than 100."

Gene will make his Williams debut in Jerez, Spain on December 5 alongside Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Minardi general manager Giancarlo Minardi has wished his former driver Marc Gene all the best after seeing him move to BMW-Williams as the team's test driver.

Gene's move to BMW-Williams leaves the Italian team in turmoil but despite admitting his sadness at seeing him leave, Minardi is predicting a bright future for the Spaniard.

Minardi said: "Marc has been talking to Williams for a while now and while it is sad to see him leave, we want to wish him all the best in the future. Marc is a good driver and he has a bright future in front of him."

The team have also confirmed that they will not be in a rush to appoint a new driver to partner Gaston Mazzacane as they focus on finding an engine and sponsors for next season.

A team spokesman said: "I don't expect the team to announce a new driver for about a month or so. The team will not rush into making a new appointment but we will make an official announcement when we do appoint a new driver."