Schumacher bows to supersonic jet

11th December 2003, Comments 0 comments

11 December 2003 , GROSSETO - Formula One invincible Michael Schumacher was forced to concede defeat - but only just - in a three-legged speed race against a military supersonic jet fighter Thursday. The blistering race, which pitted Schumacher's flaming red F2003-GA against the brand new Eurofighter Typhoon hunter-bomber, took place on parallel airstrips at an Italian military airbase near Grosseto, in the central Italian region of Tuscany. The six-times Formula One world champion whizzed ahead of the jet

11 December 2003

GROSSETO - Formula One invincible Michael Schumacher was forced to concede defeat - but only just - in a three-legged speed race against a military supersonic jet fighter Thursday.

The blistering race, which pitted Schumacher's flaming red F2003-GA against the brand new Eurofighter Typhoon hunter-bomber, took place on parallel airstrips at an Italian military airbase near Grosseto, in the central Italian region of Tuscany.

The six-times Formula One world champion whizzed ahead of the jet fighter in the shortest of the three races - measuring 600 metres in length - but lost by a 2.5 second margin in the doubly long challenge.

In the third and deciding race, the jet fighter defeated Schumacher's Ferrari by just 0.2 of a second on the 900-metres distance. In all three races, the jet fighter was already taking off as it crossed the finishing line.

The length of the three races was altered at the last minute to take account of the rain that had fallen on the airbase since the early hours of the morning.

Despite the unofficial nature of Thursday's race, the German driver was as combative as ever.

"Had it not been for the rain, I might have had a better chance," Schumacher said.

Nevertheless, the world champion clearly appeared to enjoy the race, walking up to congratulate his rival, Italian astronaut and test pilot Maurizio Cheli, as he stepped out of his jet.

"Had I had wings, I would probably have taken off," Schumacher later told reporters. Asked whether he would rather race his Formula One colleagues than jet fighters, Schumacher said: "Formula One suits me fine, thank you."

The German driver clearly has a point. While his Ferrari can reach an impressive maximum speed of up to 400 kilometres per hour, the brand new Eurofighter is capable of developing a top speed of Mach 2 - twice the speed of sound.

Cheli, the winner on Thursday aboard the Eurofighter, said he had nevertheless been impressed by the Ferrari's acceleration.

"I didn't see it go this fast during our practice runs. They must have kept a little something up their sleeves," Cheli said.

Thursday's race was a successful publicity stunt for the Eurofighter, a recently built military plane developed by Italy's Alenia, Britain's BAE and Spain and Germany's EADS.

The high-tech plane, which has a wing span of 10.95 metres, will modernise the airforces of its production companies. Greece, Austria and Singapore are also believed to be interested in the all-European fighter.

A similar contest took place in 1981, when Canada's Gilles Villeneuve and his Ferrari 126 CK turbo beat a F-104 jet fighter over a one-kilometre race at Istrana airport, in northern Italy.

In a separate challenge marking the 100th anniversary of flight and the 50th anniversary of the death of motor-racing legend Tazio Nuvolari, a vintage Alfa Romeo challenged an Italian biplane.

In 1931, Nuvolari had to concede defeat.

Thursday's challenge was declared a draw.

DPA
Subject: German news 

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