The Styrian mountains that provide the backdrop for Austria's picturesque A1-Ring yesterday resounded to the shrill scream of Formula One engines as the European Minardi F1x2 two-seaters made their first appearance in Europe this year.

A busy programme saw KL Minardi Asiatech driver, Alex Yoong, team owner, Paul Stoddart, and European Minardi F3000 drivers, Alex Sperafico and David Saelens, provide high-speed rides to just on 50 VIP passengers, competition winners and media representatives around the undulating, 4.32-km circuit that is home to the Austrian Grand Prix.

As the result of advance publicity organised by the A1-Ring, an enthusiastic crowd, estimated by track officials at 5,000, braved the cold, but sunny conditions to see four of European Minardi's unique, eight-strong fleet of two-seater Formula One-type cars in action. By the end of the day, even the most enthusiastic of motor racing fans had undoubtedly received their fill, the hard-working cars and drivers effectively running three-and-a-half Grand Prix distances in the course of the six-hour programme.

In line with Stoddart's stated aim of making Formula One more accessible to the public, the European Minardi boss and his three drivers also signed autographs for the assembled fans and fielded questions from the media.

"What a great track the A1-Ring is, particularly for the F1 two-seaters," commented Paul Stoddart at the conclusion of the Austrian programme. "The passengers get an excellent view here and I know the drivers loved it. In fact, some of them liked it so much they were starting to look at their lap times, which meant one or two of our guests got slightly more exciting rides than they might have bargained for! It's been another hugely successful day for European Minardi F1x2, and I particularly want to thank the large number of fans who, despite the chilly weather, turned out in force to support us."

The team's F1 and F3000 drivers now head for Imola, where they will take part in their respective championships during this coming weekend's San Marino Grand Prix.