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Monday, September 27, 1999 Published at 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK

Herbert races to shock GP triumph

Johnny Herbert celebrates the third Grand Prix win of his career

Johnny Herbert has taken a shock win in a dramatic European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.

The BBC's Jonathan Legard: "And even a Minardi came in sixth"
The Briton gave the Stewart-Ford team a first win after almost three seasons in the sport, leading home Jarno Trulli's Prost and a second Stewart Rubens Barrichello.

The race gave little indication as to the final destination of the drivers' world championship, although Mika Hakkinen gained a narrow two-point advantage over Eddie Irvine in the closing stages.

Challengers Heinz-Harald Frentzen and David Coulthard both retired in a race which saw the weather change from dry to wet and back again on more than one occasion.

McLaren messed up their strategy with Hakkinen in the early stages.

Irvine's charge was spoilt by a bizarre 28-second pit stop, in which Ferrari's mechanics forgot to put four wheels on his car.

False start

After so much build-up to the final round of the 1999 championship to be held in Europe, the first start was a massive anticlimax.

[ image: Sauber's Pedro Diniz was overturned]
Sauber's Pedro Diniz was overturned
Frentzen and Hakkinen pullled away, but nobody else followed, and the start was rapidly aborted.

They did get away second time, although the safety car was soon out on the track after spectacular smash involving Pedro Diniz.

He was clipped by Alexander Wurz's Benetton, flipping the Sauber upside down, and causing Diniz to be taken to hospital. He suffered heavy bruising to the shoulder and right knee.

One beneficiary of a nasty-looking incident was Irvine, who gained two places and moved up to seventh, and then sixth when racing finally began.

European Grand Prix winner Johnny Herbert: "I was hoping it was going to be quite a deluge"
Frentzen pulled clear, with Coulthard having lost second to Hakkinen on the first corner.

Irvine's attempt to make up for a poor qualifying performance was being held back by Giancarlo Fisichella's Benetton, but he got past when the Italian ran wide on the 17th lap.

Seconds later the umbrellas went up in the grandstands, where cheers could be heard as Germany's Ralf Schumacher passed Coulthard for third place.

Top teams' errors

McLaren's response to the wet weather was to bring Hakkinen in and change him on to wet tyres.

[ image: Frentzen gets a lift home after his retirement]
Frentzen gets a lift home after his retirement
But it was a mistake. The rain stopped immediately with Frentzen having gambled and stayed out.

Irvine then came in, and Ferrari committed the biggest pit stop mistake of the season.

Four tyres came off, but only three went back on the car.

Incredibly, there was no wheel to hand at the right rear and Irvine waited for 28 seconds as one was retrieved amid wild gestures from the mechanics.

German delight

Joint championship leaders Hakkinen and Irvine were both out of the points, although the German crowd could not have cared less, with Frentzen and Schumacher leading the way.

Stewart-Ford team boss Jackie Stewart: "Today there was no point in getting excited"
Frentzen made his pit stop with 35 laps left, but then stopped on his first lap back out, giving Coulthard the lead after Schumacher's stop.

The Scot was now the only championship challenger in the points, but it all went wrong for him as he locked up and span off in more rain.

By now Herbert was in the podium positions behind Schumacher, and new leader Fisichella, who took first place as the German stopped.

Leader's jinx

The Italian was the next leader to spin out, before the first place jinx struck for a fourth time.

[ image: Herbert (right) shares his joy with team boss Jackie Stewart]
Herbert (right) shares his joy with team boss Jackie Stewart
A puncture cost Schumacher the race, although he recovered to finish fourth.

But Herbert was now a comfortable leader, as attention turned to the lower placings - and the title race - with Hakkinen right behind Irvine.

When Jacques Villeneuve retired this battle was for sixth and thew championship lead with two races left.

Hakkinen's first overtaking attempt saw him run off the track, but the pressure built and Irvine locked up and allowed the Finn past with three laps to go.

It could prove a crucial moment at the end of the two remaining races in Malaysia and Japan.

But this day belonged to Stewart-Ford and Herbert, who claimed the third Grand Prix win of his career.


1 J Herbert (Gbr) Stewart-Ford 1hr 41mins 54.314secs
2 J Trulli (Ita) Prost-Peugeot at 22.618
3 R Barrichello (Bra) Stewart-Ford 22.865
4 R Schumacher (Ger) Williams 39.507
5 M Hakkinen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 1:02.950
6 M Gene (Spa) Minardi-Ford 1:05.154
7 E Irvine (Gbr) Ferrari 1:06.785
8 R Zonta (Bra) BAR one lap
9 O Panis (Fra) Prost-Peugeot one lap
10 J Villeneuve (Can) BAR five laps

Leading drivers standings:

1 Hakkinen 62pts
2 Irvine 60
3 H-H Frentzen (Ger) Jordan Mugen Honda 50
4 D Coulthard (Gbr) McLaren-Mercedes 48
5 R Schumacher 33


1 McLaren-Mercedes 110
2 Ferrari 102
3 Jordan-Mugen Honda 57
4 Williams 33
5 Stewart-Ford 31

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