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Monday, 18 June, 2001, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
MG prove a point
Warren Hughes in the MG at Le Mans
The MG was quick when it was on the track
British racing driver Warren Hughes has finally got some good news thanks to MG and Le Mans, reports BBC Sport Online's motorsport editor Andrew Benson.

Eight months ago, Warren Hughes was wondering where his career was going, having had his hopes of becoming a test driver for the Williams Formula One team dashed.

But after an impressive debut for the new MG team at Le Mans, the British driver believes he has finally turned a corner after 10 years without a decent break.

Hughes, from Tyneside, is one of the forgotten men of British motorsport.

He has raced and beaten F1 stars David Coulthard, Rubens Barrichello and Jacques Villeneuve, but that has not stopped his career being a succession of disappointments and missed opportunities.

Everyone is mega-upbeat because they know how good the car is
  Warren Hughes
Le Mans driver

He has no sponsorship to buy the right drive. And time and again, the main chance seemed to be just around the corner, only for it to slip through his fingers at the crucial moment.

It was the same with Williams. After a few test runs in 2000, Hughes had some hope of being appointed the team's official test driver this year. But they plumped for someone with racing experience in F1, Marc Gene.

That the Spaniard was never a match for Hughes in Formula 3 did not come into it.

But, in a way, that Williams decision was a blessing in disguise, for MG came calling.

With the well-publicised uncertainty over the car manufacturer's future, it did not seem a likely career-saver. But the racing has gone well considering the new car's limited mileage.

And now Hughes believes he may be on the verge of a long-awaited purple patch.

Point proved

MG's effort at Le Mans this year was a last-minute thing, and no-one - even the team - expected either of the cars to finish the race.

But they lasted long enough for their drivers to prove that they could be a major force in sportscar racing in the next couple of years.

Hughes' team-mate, his fellow Briton Anthony Reid, qualified the car impressively.

And in the race, in Hughes' hands, the MG was at one point the fastest car on the track - he even unlapped himself on race-leader Tom Kristensen's Audi.

Warren Hughes at Le Mans, copyright LAT Photographic
Hughes seems finally to be getting the break he deserves

That he did this in the pouring rain with just five laps of pre-race experience of the 8.5-mile track speaks volumes for both car and driver.

In the end, the car of Hughes, Reid and Ulsterman Jonny Kane retired with engine problems about five hours into the race.

The other car - driven by ex-F1 drivers Mark Blundell and Julian Bailey, and Ulsterman Kevin McGarrity - had been up to third at one point before problems intervened. It followed into retirement seven hours later.

But a point had been proved.

Hughes said: "If we had had the reliability, we'd have been looking at a podium finish, no problem. The car's got the speed.

"It's going to be a very competitive proposition. It's got typical new-car teething problems, but there's nothing fundamentally wrong.

'Ambitious plans'

"Everyone is mega-upbeat because they know how good the car is."

MG now have to concentrate on preparing for next year's Le Mans, and they may take in some sportscar races in the USA to help.

On top of that, Hughes and Reid will be entering the last three races of the British Touring Car Championship with a brand new car.

"I feel I've got a future with MG," says Hughes. "I feel a lot of loyalty to them, and I think they feel the same about me.

"This is something I'm really excited about, and it's hopefully something that will give me and MG a lot of success.

"MG have got very ambitious plans and it will be good to be part of them."

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