AUGUST 29, 2001

Yoong bites back at 'hopeless' tag

ALEX YOONG, the new Minardi Formula 1 driver who hasn't scored a point in his last two seasons of racing in Japan's Formula Nippon series, has responded to suggestions that he hasn't got the ideal track record to date when entering the sport's top flight.

The 25-year-old Malaysian will take Tarso Marques's seat in the European Aviation-backed team from the Italian Grand Prix on September 16, completing the 2001 season with Minardi as a buildup to a full season in 2002.

His arrival in Formula 1 has been made possible through substantial backing from the gaming firm Magnum and the Malaysian government, which is seeking to shore up the future of its beleaguered event by drumming up home support with a home grown driver.

Yet Yoong, who will become the first man from southeast Asia to race in Grands Prix since Prince Bira of Siam believes that he will prove the sceptics wrong, and insists that money alone hasn't altered anyone's view of his talents behind the wheel. "It doesn't matter who you are these days, you have to bring some form of sponsorship with you to help the team," he declared.