Minardi come calling for HK's Lee

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 April, 2005, 12:00am

Marchy Lee Yin-kin will make history when he becomes the first Hong Kong driver to go behind the wheels of a Formula One car after being offered a test drive with Minardi at Mugello, Italy.

Lee, who is the reigning Formula BMW Asia champion, was delighted to be given the chance to make his Formula One debut after signing up to take part in test sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The 28-year-old Hong Kong-born driver will become the third Chinese racer to take to the cockpit of a grand prix machine after Tung Ho-ping tested for Williams and McLaren ran Cheng Congfu.

Lee said he was extremely happy to be Hong Kong's first driver at this level. 'I will fly to Italy tonight and test next week for Minardi. After the test, I will come back and an announcement will be made,' said Lee, who hinted that he might join the struggling Formula One team as a driver.

'At this moment, we've signed something with the team but I cannot announce it because I have to wait for them [Minardi] to announce it.' Lee would not say whether he was still contractually obligated to Meritus, the team he represented in his record-breaking triumph in the Formula BMW Championship last year. 'It's very difficult for me to talk about it right now,' he said. 'Right now, I am really looking forward to this test and hopefully I will do well.

'Whether I am the third Chinese driver to test drive in Formula One or not is not important. It's good for Hong Kong because I am Hong Kong-born and I grew up in Hong Kong. This F1 test is not a PR test. It's really a test drive. I have to work on the team. I need to learn.

'The last six months I have been training and doing PR work. I have never been to this circuit but it's an official circuit for F1 and I might see some of the drivers there like Michael Schumacher. I am really ready, both physically and mentally.'

Minardi team principal Paul Stoddart said: 'We have been keeping an eye on Marchy's progress for some time, and are pleased to be able to give him his first taste of Formula One performance next week.

'It will also give the team a chance to have a close look at him in terms of possible Formula One potential. I'm sure this test will also generate considerable interest among Formula One fans in China.'