Clear bashes BAR - on his way to Toyota?

JOCK CLEAR, Jacques Villeneuve's technical mentor and senior race engineer at British American Racing has launched a scathing attack on his team, suggesting that to drive for his present team in the manner that he did on the way to the 1997 world championship title would be an 'abuse' of his natural talent.

Rumors from Cologne suggest that Clear is on his way out of the team, which is struggling in sixth place in the constructors' points, and that he is on his way to Toyota for a considerable amount of money. Not only that, but the word is out that Villeneuve will follow him out of the door - in what would be a crushing blow to Honda.

Clear said on Villeneuve's web site that he believed Olivier Panis was no greater a threat to Villeneuve than Ricardo Zonta or Heinz-Harald Frentzen before him, explaining that there was at least half a second in reserve that the Canadian had left untapped.

"I think that there's that special something inside Jacques that he's not using at the moment," Clear said. "It's still there, and we all know it's still there, but drivers of his talent only have a finite amount of that something special and I think if you asked them to use that something out of the ordinary just to qualify ninth rather than eleventh then you would be abusing that talent."

Villeneuve himself first found motor racing success with Toyota in 1992 after three awful seasons in Italian F3. By moving to Japan and competing in the All-Japan F3 championship with TOMS Toyota Villeneuve established himself as a race winner, finishing second in the championship to Anthony Reid, and also fitting in an appearance in Toyota's Group C sportscar at Mine.

Toyota has the financial clout to pull Villeneuve away from BAR, and the Canadian himself said that third place in this year's constructors' championship was the 'minimum acceptable' for him to stay with the team for a fourth season. Williams sought to bring their most recent world champion back to spearhead the BMW partnership in late 1999 without success, and this season Villeneuve has been the focus of attention from both McLaren and Jaguar.

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