Fighter jet beats Schumacher's Ferrari in three races down runway

ANDREW DAMPF Canadian Press Thursday, December 11, 2003

GROSSETO, Italy (AP) - It takes a jet plane to beat Michael Schumacher.

An Italian air force fighter jet defeated Michael Schumacher's Ferrari 2-1 Thursday in three races down a military airport's rain-soaked runways. Schumacher's Ferrari F2003-GA proved to be a nose faster than pilot Maurizio Cheli's Eurofighter Typhoon in the first race of 600 metres. The plane then easily won the last two races of 1,200 and 900 metres.

"It was an interesting experience," Schumacher said, adding that "there was a lot less pressure" than facing Formula One rival Juan Pablo Montoya. Cheli did not gloat over his victory.

"Everyone is a prince or king in their own environment," the fighter pilot said.

The scene at Tuscany's Baccarini airport was full of pomp and circumstance, with vintage cars and planes and a formal military band on hand to entertain thousands of spectators. A squadron of six fighter jets flew overhead in close formation and the event was shown live on Italian state TV.

The jet and the Ferrari lined up on parallel runways and went full throttle when the green signal came, mixing the deep sound of a jet turbine with a high-pitched Formula One engine.

The jet barrelled down the runway effortlessly, while the Ferrari's march left a trail of water flying up into the grey sky.

After covering the required distance, the jet went airborne and then landed following each race.

Schumacher won the first race of 600 metres in 9.4 seconds, with the jet 0.2 seconds behind. The jet won over 1,200 metres in 14.2 seconds, with the Ferrari 2.5 seconds back. In the final race of 900 metres, the jet finished in 13.0 seconds with the Ferrari was 0.2 seconds behind.

Normally, the jet takes off after five seconds.

The jet appeared to require little attention throughout the event, while Schumacher and his Ferrari were attended to by the Italian team's regular pit-stop crew during Formula One races. Instead of a garage, the Ferrari was parked in an airplane hangar before the race.

Cheli is a chief test pilot for one of the companies that built the jet and formerly an Italian Air Force fighter pilot and astronaut for the European Space Agency.

In practice runs Wednesday, the jet won at all three distances, although Schumacher was not on hand for practice.

The jet carried no weapons and weighed slightly under 21,000 kilograms. The Ferrari weighed 600 kilograms and had only minor alterations from race mode, including a slight change to its outer shell to adapt aerodynamically to the long, straight distance.

The Eurofighter's top speed when airborne is listed at 2,448 km/h per hour, with the Ferrari's limit at 369 km/h.

This was not the first time a race car has raced against an airplane.

In 1931, Tazio Nuvolari, the best auto driver of his day, drove his Alfa Romeo 8C-300 faster than a Caproni Ca100 airplane. And in 1981, Canadian Gilles Villeneuve's Ferrari 126 beat an F-104 plane over a distance of one kilometre.

Thursday's event was organized by the Italian Defence Department and hailed as a demonstration of Italian industry.

Copyright 2003 The Canadian Press

Warrant issued for former F1 star Eddie Irvine on scooter speeding charge

Canadian Press Thursday, December 11, 2003

LONDON (AP) - Authorities have issued a warrant for the arrest of former Formula One driver Eddie Irvine for speeding on a scooter with no licence and no insurance, court officials said Thursday.

Police stopped the 38-year-old Irvine in London's Hyde Park on July 24 for allegedly driving over the 30 m.p.h. (48 km/h) speed limit. He was charged with speeding and failing to have a scooter licence and insurance.

Court officials said he failed to attend a hearing Wednesday at Bow Street Magistrates court, and a judge concluded the case against him had been proven and issued a warrant for his arrest.

Copyright 2003 The Canadian Press