BAR aims for another Honda graduate

BRITISH AMERICAN RACING is attempting to secure the services of Takuma Sato's 'classmate' from the Honda academy run by popular ex-F1 driver Aguri Suzuki, the French Formula 3 Championship winner Ryu Fukuda.

With BAR's test driver from this season Takuma Sato, who won the British F3 championship with BAR's junior team Carlin Motorsport, having joined fellow Honda-powered rivals Jordan as a race driver next year, BAR is keen to maintain the strength of its relationship with the Japanese giant.

Honda has expressed impatience with both its teams this year and is widely believed to be focusing on one exclusive supply deal from 2003 onward in order to push to get on terms with Fiat, BMW and Mercedes-Benz at the top of the F1 order as well as beat incoming rivals Toyota - preferably with a Japanese driver. Jordan and BAR have been very equal in terms of performance this season, and any weight that the teams can use to swing the verdict will count.

Patrick Lemarie's place at the head of BAR's test team is currently in some doubt, as the respected Frenchman attempts to put together a competitive sports car campaign in 2002, meaning that the loss of Sato has left BAR with only Anthony Davidson in place on the testing staff. The young Briton, nicknamed 'the prawn', became a BAR F3 driver this season after finishing third in the 2000 British Formula Ford championship with Jenson Button's old team, Haywood Racing.

Davidson's first proper outing with BAR came last month at Mugello, when he demolished the car at the end of his first stint. Fellow Brit Darren Manning has also been a nominated driver while racing in Formula 3000, but he has enjoyed little running and is anticipated to race the Leeds United entry in the proposed Premier 1 Grand Prix series.

Fukuda is not expected to join Davidson in the Carlin Motorsport team in British Formula 3 next year however. He is most likely to test full time and perhaps find a berth for one-off events such as the Le Mans 24 Hours as he steps into the void left by Lemarie. BAR's junior squad will see Davidson joined by the South African driver Alan van der Merwe for its British F3 title defense, although rumors of a third car to be run for American driver Patrick Long persist should he not find a berth alongside James Courtney in the former Jaguar Racing junior team.

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