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AUGUST 26, 2001

Wilson in the home stretch


Justin Wilson is all but there in the International Formula 3000 Championship. In Budapest he collected 10 points while his title rivals Mark Webber and Tomas Enge both failed to score. This gives Wilson a 20 point lead with two races remaining and as Wilson has been very consistent to date it is hard to imagine that he will not be able to pick up at least one more point. Webber will need to win both races without Wilson scoring if he is to take the title.

"I have to concede that it's all but over," Webber admitted after the race. "We have had a good season and have won three times, just like Justin, but he has scored points in six of the other nine races and that has made him an awesome opponent. Given his record, I can't see him not scoring in the final two races."

The two championship contenders qualified alongside one another on the front of the grid with Wilson the faster of the two after Webber had his best run ruined by spinning cars. Third place offered a surprise with the Red Bull Junior Team's Ricardo Mauricio and this was backed up by a good performance from his team mate Patrick Friesacher who was sixth on the grid. Sebastien Bourdais was fourth fastest in his DAMS entry while Enge was disappointed with fifth place in what is effectively his home race.

"There may be lots of fans here," Enge said, "but I don't like the track."

The top 10 was completed by Darren Manning (Arden Team Russia), Marc Goossens (who had taken over at Coloni from Rodrigo Sperafico), David Saelens (European Minardi) and Antonio Pizzonia (Petrobras Junior Team). Unfortunately, Sealens was forced to withdraw because of pain from the vertebrae he damaged in his accident at Silverstone and so Pizzonia moved up to ninth and Giorgio Pantano (Astromega) took tenth place on the grid.

The start in Hungary gives those on the left side of the track the advantage as this is the racing line and so it is not unusual to see the man in third on the grid getting to the first corner behind the pole man but ahead of the man in second on the grid. On this occasion the theory was correct as Wilson took the lead with Mauricio second (from third on the grid) and Enge third (from fifth). Webber, Bourdais and Manning all made slower starts and so ended up fourth, fifth and sixth.

In the course of the first lap Pizzonia disappeared when he spun off and then went into the pits. There were no major overtaking moves in the early laps but several cars dropped out of the running with spins or mechanical trouble but the status quo remained at the front. On lap 16 Friesacher pulled out a great move to snatch sixth place from Manning at the first corner.

At the start of the 25th lap Enge made a mistake going into the first corner and the Coca-Cola car slid out wide. Webber went for the inside line as they accelerated down the hill towards the second turn. Enge tried to hold on to the lead and ran into the side of Webber. Both men were able to continue but Enge dropped behind both Webber and Bourdais and things then got worse still when the Czech was given a 10-second stop-go penalty for dangerous driving, which put him out of contention, back in 12th place.

"I thought what Tomas did was pretty idiotic," Webber complained. "After he made his mistake I was clean through, but he just carried on across the track and hit me. The impact inflicted a bit of damage on the car, but I don't think it affected the handling. I could see Mauricio up ahead and thought I could catch him. I wasn't interested in finishing third and wanted to limit the damage caused by all the time I'd lost stuck behind Enge."

Webber closed up on the Brazilian, halving the seven second gap between them but with four laps to go he made a mistake and spun off. Although the championship looks unlikely (at best) Webber would like to finish the year with more wins than the champion. At the moment the two men have three victories apiece.

"I'm not going to cut my throat about what has happened," reported Webber. "It would be nice to end the year as the driver who has scored most victories this season. That is definitely within our grasp.

The accident meant that Mauricio was left unchallenged in second place with Bourdais moving to third, Freisacher to fourth, Pantano to fifth and Bas Leinders to sixth.