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Atlas F1 News Service, a Reuters report
Minardi Still Seek New Backers

Friday May 5th, 2000

By Phil Minshull

Minardi said on Friday they needed new backers to continue operating as a Formula One team.

Sporting director Cesare Fiorio said new partners were actively being courted to stand alongside title-sponsor Fondmetal, who provide their Ford Cosworth V10 engines.

"The team cannot continue to rely on (Fondmetal owner) Mr Rumi alone and will have to go somewhere," Fiorio said.

"So far Telefonica is our main sponsor, and a good one, but every other team seems to be trying to pick it up from us. But we are still holding on," he said.

The Spanish telecoms giant were reported at the start of the season to be interested in buying the team -- creating an all-Spanish outfit -- but Minardi driver Marc Gene said on Thursday the company had gone cool on the idea.

Fiorio said that discussions had gone on with two or three potential sponsors "but nothing has been defined so far". Minardi, regularly last on the grid, was described by chief executive Gabriele Rumi as "the Cinderella of Formula One" - but he now has something new to offer potential partners.

On Thursday the team revealed it will be the first Formula One team to use a cast titanium gearbox, which is being used this weekend in the car of Argentine driver Gaston Mazzacane.

Fiorio said he was confident the team would start winning points -- they won their first last year in almost four years of competition -- with the innovation.

"This has not been completely developed yet because it affects the whole setup of the car. We are trying to get it as good as possible, but unfortunately we had only one day of testing with it last week here in Barcelona," Fiorio said.

"The rest of the development will have to be done at the race venues, which is not an ideal situation. But once it is OK, for sure it will be a good step forward," he added.

"Mazzacane is using it here: he had it all day today and did 37 laps without a problem, so we are confident.

"The whole project has been quite expensive but it serves to show that even a small team like Minardi can be a leader in new technology in the sophisticated world of F1," Fiorio said.

Mazzacane finished 19th out of the 22 drivers on the first day of practice for Sunday's grand prix.

Gene, with a conventional gearbox, was 11th and the Spaniard was pleasantly surprised by his position.

"We tried different set-ups and in the end the car felt much better on new tyres. I know that tomorrow I will not be able to maintain this position but now seventh, eighth or ninth position is definitely within my reach."

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