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banner Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 16:22 GMT
Campo's F1 secret
Mark Webber
Webber was a test driver for Benetton last year
Formula One rookie Mark Webber has revealed that he has a sporting legend in his camp - former Australian rugby captain David Campese.

Webber said that Campese kept his racing career afloat by loaning him 40,000 in 1997.

The retired rugby star will also be in the crowd at Albert Park when his friend makes his F1 debut at the Melbourne Grand Prix on 3 March.

"David and I both come from Queanbeyan and my father used to play rugby with his father, so we knew each other," said Webber, who is now based in England.


There's no doubt that Mark's got the talent
Minardi boss Paul Stoddart
Webber was signed on Monday by the KL Minardi Asiatech team for the 2002 season but to reach that point he has endured hard financial times.

When the 25-year-old's British F3 career almost came to a halt through lack of money Campese came up with the 100,000 Australian dollars he needed.

"David saw the potential when I was lying something like third in the British F3 series, but that I might have to stop racing so he came up with the money.

"He was a big help and so have the other sponsors who have supported me over the years.

Rescued

Webber, who finished second to Britain's Justin Wilson in the F3000 Championship last year, has earned the drive thanks to a consortium of Australian companies who will plough sponsorship into Minardi this year.

He will become the first Australian to drive for an Australian-owned team since three-time champion Jack Brabham's final season in 1970.

The former Benetton test driver will also become the first Aussie to compete in F1 since 1994 when Brabham's son, David, raced for the now defunct Simtek team.

David Campese
Campese will be in the crowd on 3 March
Webber has been given a one-year deal with an extra year's option by Minardi boss Paul Stoddart, the British-based Australian aviation tycoon who rescued Minardi last year.

He will partner Malaysia's Alex Yoong.

"There's no doubt that Mark's got the talent," said Stoddart, hoping the coming season will see Minardi score points for the first time since 1999.

"He's also a thinking driver and you really need that in Formula One these days.

"The recent tests with him in the last couple of weeks were seriously good. We want to move off the bottom of the grid and with Mark and Alex we can do that.

"We want to finish in the top 10, that's the aim for year two of our five year plan. I think we can give Arrows a run for their money and Jaguar and BAR are also targets we can aim for."

See also:

14 Nov 00 |  Motorsport
Benetton snap up Webber
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