DAMS have announced that they will run Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais and American Derek Hill (pictured) in this year's FIA F3000 Championship, which starts on March 31 in Brazil.

Sebastien Bourdais emerged as one of the stars in last year's series, when in his debut season the young man from Le Mans managed to start from the first row twice and finished on the podium in the French Grand Prix support race.

The DAMS contract will come as a relief to Bourdais, who was dropped from the Gauloises Junior team (aka Prost Junior) just before Christmas despite having a year left to run on his two-year contract.

Prost's loss of Gauloises sponsorship for 2001 has apparently initiated the driver change, with the new investment from PSN in the French GP team looking likely to hand one seat in their Jr outfit to Argentina's Nicolas Filiberti, while F3 champ Jonathan Cochet is expected in the other - although nothing has yet been confirmed.

DAMS Team Principal Jean-Paul Driot explained: "He (Bourdais) only became a free agent less than two weeks ago, as everybody - including Sebastien - was under the assumption he was contracted to another team. When it became clear he wasn't, I didn't hesitate a minute to sign him on."

Bourdais, a former French F3 Champion, is equally happy: "For a moment it looked a bit scary for this year, but I am extremely pleased to be part of the DAMS team for 2001."

American Derek Hill, son of ex-Formula 1 Champion Phil Hill, will drive the team's second car.

Having spent his early career in the States, Hill made the move to Europe in 1999, competing in Formula Palmer Audi and the Italian F3000 Championship in 2000. The highlight of his career so far was winning the Barber-Dodge Pro Series in 1997.

"Derek is the up and coming talent in the States, and I am sure he will live up to all the expectations his famous last name incurs," Jean-Paul Driot explained. "His level of professionalism is immense and I think these two drivers can and will create quite a few surprises throughout the season."

"I am very pleased to be joining DAMS. They are a very professional Team and have a great history in F3000. They have worked with some of the very best drivers. I am sure I will learn a lot from them during the season," said Derek on signing.

The DAMS team was founded in 1988 and has become the most successful in the history of the International F3000 Championship. It has won 22 races and three titles, in 1990 (with Eric Comas), in 1993 (with Olivier Panis) and in 1994 (with Jean-Christophe Bouillon).