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DECEMBER 7, 2000

Montoya "best I have ever seen" says Jaguar boss Rahal

JAGUAR RACING boss Bobby Rahal's bold prediction that Juan Montoya could take F1 by storm as the best driver of his generation was given added credibility yesterday when the 24-year old Colombian stunned the entire pit lane at Jerez Wednesday by posting the second fastest time of the day, 0.2sec behind Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari and ahead of David Coulthard's McLaren-Mercedes, on the second day of the first winter test session.

In Rahal's view, the 24-year old Colombian, who has replaced Jenson Button in the BMW Williams squad and yesterday outpaced the young British driver's Benetton, has the sheer natural flair to join the all-time greats on a par with the likes of Jim Clark, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.

"To me Juan is quite simply the best driver I have ever seen," said Rahal.

On a slippery track Montoya was briefly fastest yesterday afternoon at Jerez during a busy session which was red-flagged to a halt on three occasion, one of which was caused by Button, who finished the day fourth fastest, going off the road and stalling his engine.

This latest helping of praise for Montoya newcomer comes from a measured and respected personality not given to flights of fancy.

Rahal is a highly experienced racer who speaks from first-hand experience. The 47-year old won the 1986 Indianapolis 500 at the wheel of a March-Cosworth, so knows what qualities it took from Montoya to win that race at his first attempt earlier this year.

"Montoya is something special, by any standards," said Rahal. "Nothing fazes or overawes him."