Ron backs DC for next year's title race

RON DENNIS has stated his belief that David Coulthard can successfully restore McLaren to the top of the world championship table next year - provided that his team can build a competitive car.

This year's MP4/16 disappointed from its first appearance this year, and only a combination of David Coulthard's most polished season at the wheel and some strong race strategies kept the Woking team in the frame until the halfway point of the year.

All too often the difficulties found in dialing the car in to the circuit and a series of chronic unreliability dramas blunted the team in 2001 however, and with Williams still putting the final polish on its package with BMW and Michelin Ferrari and Schumacher romped off to an unassailable title lead, Coulthard eventually ending the season second but 58 points adrift of the German.

Dennis is certain that DC has shown he can do the job however. "Of course he can beat Schumacher," he said. "He's done it in the past, there's no reason why he can't do it in the future. Our task is to provide him with the best equipment. If we're in a fortunate position of giving him better equipment it'll be that little bit easier for him. But he's more than capable of beating Michael."

Quite whether McLaren will be able to provide such a car is, however, open to question. Ferrari and Williams have both run significant elements of their 2002 packages with success in the closing races of this season, while McLaren - which almost lost its technical director Adrian Newey to Jaguar in the summer - will not start 2002 with race mileage on its new car. If any team can overhaul such an advantage it is McLaren, but the team is in for a busy winter...

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