McLaren's F3000 arm, the team, has announced that is parting company with Stephane Sarrazin, and replacing the Frenchman with Tomas Scheckter from this weekend's race in Austria.

Sarrazin, having been made one of the favourites to land this year's FIA F3000 title, has failed to live up to the expectation, scoring just three points in the six rounds held to date. The team as a whole has struggled to live up to the standards it set last season, when winning the title with Nick Heidfeld, and the former Apomatox/Gauloises driver has decided to cut his losses.

''It is disappointing that our relationship with Stephane has to finish,'' admitted team manager David Brown, ''but we think that Tomas will make a good team-mate to Tomas Enge. Changing drivers during the season can have a destabilising effect, but we are confident that the team will move forward during the last four races. We are sure that Tomas will fit into our team environment and, although it will not be easy for him, he seems to have the ability and strength of character to rise to the challenge.''

Scheckter graduated to the British Formula Three series this year, after winning last season's Opel Euroseries title, but, despite setting the pace at the start of the campaign, has fallen away from championship leader Antonio Pizzonia. A one-off outing in the Italian F3000 series last month - where he qualified fourth and led until the closing stages - confirmed his adaptability, however.

The South African completed a successful day's testing and acclimatisation at Pembrey last Thursday, and will continue to race in F3 alongside his new commitment.

''I am very excited about the prospect of driving for one of the best teams in the world,'' he said, ''I enjoyed the test and look forward to racing in Austria. It will be a real challenge for me and I am ready to respond positively to all the new experiences F3000 will bring. I will be continuing in my bid to win the British F3 Championship, and I believe that this opportunity can only enhance those efforts.''



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