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Klien to race for Jaguar in 2004

Alan Baldwin | December 02, 2003 17:28 IST

Young Austrian Christian Klien will race for Jaguar alongside Australian Mark Webber next year, the Formula One team has announced.

"There is no doubt in our minds about the potential of this exciting new young talent," said Jaguar racing managing director David Pitchforth of a 20-year-old who had his first experience of a Formula One car only last week.

Klien, who was testing with Jaguar in Barcelona on Tuesday, takes the place of Briton Justin Wilson at the Ford-owned team.

Wilson, who competed in the last five races of the season for Jaguar after Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia was dropped, has an uncertain future, with Minardi and Jordan the only teams still to confirm their lineups.

"It's disappointing," the 25-year-old told Tuesday's Daily Mirror. "I have known this was on the cards for a while. I know why they have made the decision they have and there is little I can do about it.

"I'm still waiting to see what happens about the rule governing test driving. I would like to remain with the team in a test driving role. Minardi is also a possibility."

New rules for 2004 allow the six lowest-ranked teams to run a third car in Friday practice at grands prix but the driver cannot have competed in six or more races during the past two seasons. That bars Wilson unless the rule is changed.

HEFTY BACKING

Klien was runner-up in German Formula Three last season and impressed Jaguar with his attitude during his debut test last week. He also comes with hefty backing from Austrian energy drink company Red Bull.

"Christian was in as much control of himself as he was the car," said Pitchforth of the Valencia test. "He was extremely calm, composed and didn't seem remotely fazed by his first experience with a Formula One car.

"He worked very well with the race engineers and demonstrated increasing speed as he became familiar with the car...our decision to employ him as a race driver was based on merit, potential and speed."

Klien looked forward to the challenge of working alongside a highly-rated driver who has so far made all his Formula One team mates look slow.

"I have worked tirelessly over the years to get to this point but I appreciate also that the real hard work for me starts now," he said.

Klien will be the first Austrian driver to race in Formula One since Alexander Wurz left Benetton in 2000 to become McLaren's reserve.

Ironically, Klien's debut will come the year after his home grand prix at Spielberg was struck off the calendar.

Pitchforth thanked Wilson for his contribution.

"Justin's speed, focus and experience are exemplary and our decision to put Christian in the race car in no way reflects upon Justin's clear ability as a competitive racing driver," he said.

"We are, however, in discussions with Justin about how Jaguar racing can help with his future career."


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