Although they failed to finish in the points in round six of the FIA Formula 3000 Championship at Magny-Cours today, European Arrows drivers, Mark Webber and Christijan Albers, both produced stunning drives.

Albers only narrowly missed out on his first championship point in seventh position while Webber stormed back from a puncture on lap five - while lying a strong fifth - to finish 16th, setting the fastest lap of the race and producing, arguably, the drive of the race.

Webber perfected a new starting technique to make a lightning-quick start, passing both Mario Haberfeld and Fernando Alonso to move into fifth by the first corner. The race, however, was brought under the control of the Safety Car on lap two and, on the re-start a lap later, Webber appeared to be in trouble, losing position to both Alonso and Manning before pitting with a punctured right rear tyre.

Webber returned to the race 32 seconds adrift of the last running car of Ananda Mikola, but scythed his way back into the race, reeling-in the pack and catching the tail-enders with 15 laps to go. The charging Aussie then overtook several cars during the closing stages of the race, finishing 16th and setting the fastest lap of the race of 1min 30.105secs on lap 21 after a memorable drive.

''Unfortunately the puncture lost us the podium today,'' said a disappointed Webber, who still maintains third place in the championship, ''I'm unhappy with the result today, but very happy with the performance. Take out the pit-stop, and we actually did the race eight seconds faster than anyone!

''The improvements we made to the car overnight were very effective, and I think we would have murdered them today if it hadn't been for the puncture.''

Dutchman Albers also drove a blinding race, after a good start saw the 21-year old move swiftly into twelfth position by lap eight. He then spent much of the race in the close company of Soheil Ayari and Darren Manning, passing the Englishman on lap 31 to move into eighth position. Albers was then able to keep Ayari under pressure, and actually passed the experienced Frenchman twice before the chequered flag.

''The race went quite well for me,'' he said, ''I just had problems with a few of the drivers - some of them were a little crazy! I passed Ayari twice - once he went straight on at the chicane and was back in front of me again!''

''My car was really good in the first part of the race but developed a little bit of oversteer towards the end. But, it was a good job by the team and I hope next time out, I will finish in the points.''

''Both drivers did an excellent job,'' commented team boss Paul Stoddart, ''I think it was a shame that we were denied a really good race with Mark, because he was easily the fastest driver out there today. The puncture was a real disappointment but the way he drove into 16th position, and set the fastest lap of the race, was very impressive indeed. Christijan almost finished in the points after driving a very mature race and our boys did a fantastic job in the pits.''



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