Warren Hughes - A Name to Remember
by Mark Cipolloni
"The evidence of a very special talent is overwhelming when you look beneath the skewed results given by a history of second rate F3 machinery. He's devastatingly fast, has an audacious ability to overtake, is great technically and bright. He'd be an instant sensation in a decent car in any category in the world, F1 or
Champ Cars included."
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To be honest, I had never heard of him before. When a reader sent me a note about how good he heard this certain driver was it got my curiosity up. I decided to do a little research, and the further I dug the more impressed I became of the driver who 1979 F1 Grand Prix Champion Jody Scheckter recently called "a somebody who is a nobody." That nobody is Warren Hughes, and he has his sights set on Champ Cars.
There are a lot of very good race car drivers who, for one reason or another, never get the recognition they deserve or the chance at a good ride in the big leagues. More times than not that reason is money, or the lack thereof.
Warren Hughes is 31 years old. Already considered too old to start a F1 career. Deep in his heart he knows he's not too old, but realistically he recognizes the chances of landing a Champ Car ride are far better.
Whether he gets that chance or not remains to be seen, but it won't be because he doesn't have the talent.
record speaks for itself
Hughes has raced F3 and other lower class series much of his career, but has beaten every teammate he has ever had, and that includes current F1 drivers Jacques Villeneuve, Rubens Barrichello and Pedro Diniz. This year, for the first time in his career, he has decided to step up the racing ladder to see if he can make it to the top.
He secured a seat in this years Italian Formula 3000 Championship with the British based team Arden Racing. In March Hughes was invited to Italy prior to the season by the team to drive in a head to head shoot out for the seat with the 1999 Formula 3 Champion Marc Hynes. Although he had never driven a Formula 3000 car before or on either of the two Italian circuits, Hughes approached the test high with confidence after comprehensively beating Hynes in the last round of the 1999 British Formula 3 Championship at Thruxton. At the Ferrari test track Mugello, Hughes proved to be quicker than Hynes by nearly half a second over the two day test and then by almost a second at the next test at Vallelunga three days later. In fact Hughes set the fastest time of all the drivers testing at the circuit that day which included all the leading teams competing in the championship.
Arden Racing boss and former Formula 3 racer, Christian Horner said " Both drivers were very impressive but Warren proved to be ultimately quicker than Marc and we are looking forward to running Warren, we think he'll do a great job in Italy and give us a good shot at the championship" (Editor's note: he currently leads the championship).
Warren is partnered in the Italian series by young Russian driver Viktor Maslov, who brings with him sponsorship for the team from the Russian oil company Lukoil. " For once I find myself in a situation where what mattered was my driving ability and not the amount of money I could bring to the team" said Warren.
wins and counting
Having never raced the circuit before could have been a huge disadvantage to Hughes but as well as preparing the car at Snetterton Warren studied video recordings from Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari from the recent Grand Prix and footage of the FIA F3000 race. "To be quick around Imola you have to attack the circuit and especially the curbs on the corners" said Warren, " and studying the videos prepared me mentally for what I had to do to be quick. "
A perfect getaway from the green lights gave Hughes an immediate advantage over his rivals that he was never to relinquish over the 21 laps. " Once I'd made a good start to get a clear run to the first corner I knew that I only had to keep focused and not make a mistake and no one could get near to me" said Warren afterwards. At the end of the 21 laps Warren had demolished the opposition and finished over ten seconds ahead of the second placed car, such a dominant performance has not been seen in the championship to date. To underline his supremacy over the weekend Warren also set the fastest lap of the race three tenths of a second quicker than anyone else, but that does not tell the full story of his speed as eleven of the twenty one laps he completed during the race were faster than any other driver could manage all weekend!
Warren Hughes drove the race of his life to win the fourth round of the Italian F3000 Championship at Monza and take the lead in the championship for the first time this season.
Starting from the fourth row of the grid in eighth place Hughes was to have his work cut out in his Arden Team Russia car over the 18 laps of the Autodromo di Monza, the historic home of the Italian Grand Prix and one of the worlds theatre's of motorsport where the worlds great drivers have become legends.
At the start it was immediately obvious that Warren's speed would soon take him to the front of the field as by the end of lap one he was already in fourth place.
On lap four he slipped ahead of Gianluca Calcagni into third and set about closing the gap to the leading pair. By lap eight the gap had gone and Warren made his move past Rodrigo Sperifico under braking into the Ascari chicane. Ahead of him now lay only Tomas Scheckter, son of the 1979 Formula 1 World Champion Jody Scheckter, in his first race. The pace of Hughes in his Arden Team Russia Lola was unrelenting and Scheckter was helpless to fend of his attack and a lap later through the Lesmo corners as Hughes swept into the lead, astounding the Italian race fans around the circuit.
Now in front Hughes controlled the race but never let the pace slacken as he confirmed his dominance by setting the fastest lap of the race almost half a second quicker than anyone else. Warren crossed the finish line three seconds ahead of Scheckter to the obvious delight of his Arden Team Russia mechanics and engineers and a small group of English fans in the grandstand opposite.
The Italian crowd had been treated to a masterly display of motor racing and applause of appreciation sounded out around the circuit as he took his victory lap. ' To win here at Monza is really special and to win two races in succession at two such historic circuits as Imola and Monza is fantastic' said an elated Hughes afterwards, ' Everyone in the team has done a fantastic job this weekend, I'm absolutely delighted'.
Scheckter eats his words
In the Monza race Tomas Scheckter had done well, qualifying 4th ahead of Hughes who would start 8th. When the green dropped Hughes proceeded to move up, pass Scheckter for the lead, and set fastest race lap in securing the win. After the win he got up on the podium and who was handing out trophies? None other than Jody Scheckter. As Jody handed Warren his trophy, he said with a wry smile, " I guess I ought to be a bit more careful about what I say in the future."
We think if Warren Hughes gets a chance at driving a Champ Car, people will have a lot of things to say about him in the future.
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