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Motor Racing: McNish prepares to tan the hides of Grand Prix big boys.

Byline: TED MACAULEY

FORMULA One newcomer Allan McNish has spent longer on the French Riviera than any millionaire playboy - and there's not the slightest trace of a tan.

That's because the pale-faced Scot has been chasing his dreams crammed into the cockpit of his 210mph Toyota grinding out top-secret testing miles at the Paul Ricard circuit near Marseilles.

And with less than a month until his Grand Prix debut in Australia the 32-year-old knows F1's newest pounds 250million team is already playing catch-up with the front runners.

But he has put a decade of waiting in his wake and he told me yesterday: "Getting stuck into the big boys doesn't worry me one bit.

"It seems I've waited a lifetime for this chance. I know I'm driving better than I have ever done.

"I am quicker and more experienced in testing, developing and racing the cars. I feel like the complete all-rounder.

"I know this car inside out. I know how good it can be and what it's potential is. And I know my own capabilities. We are a good match."

Modest rankings in the public dress rehearsals for Melbourne have not fazed McNish or the team and he says: "Give us time and we'll do the job."

His back-to-back secret sessions, in between the official test programme's workload, have honed his fitness and boosted his confidence sky high.

"I'm like a kid," he said last night, "I can't wait to get to Australia and get on with the job.

"I know it's going to be tough and we could take a big hit. But I'm ready for whatever ups and downs we have to face. I know I can cope mentally with the demands good or bad."

McNish will be the same age as Damon Hill when he first raced a decade ago.

"Being 32 and a starter in Formula One makes no difference to me - blimey, Nigel Mansell was about six years older when he won his first championship," said McNish.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 5, 2002
Words:333
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