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Schumacher shunts at Fiorano

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER walked away unscathed from a sizable crash last Tuesday morning at the Ferrari test track in Fiorano, Italy.

The World Champion was on his second lap of the day when he lost control of the car in one of the circuit's fast corners of the track and ploughed off the road and into a retaining wall at around 100mph. The Ferrari 412 T2 - fitted with one of the new V10 engines - suffered serious rear suspension damage in the impact.

Schumacher returned to the garages to explain that the crash had been entirely his fault - because he had driven too quickly on new tires in the near freezing conditions.

The Ferrari mechanics stripped down the car while the team's test driver Nicola Larini continued to work, developing systems for the new car using a V12-engined 412 T2. Schumacher resumed work with the V10-engine as soon as his car was repaired.

"The new engine looks good," Schumacher reported, "and it went through an entire race distance last week. The problem is that the car itself will arrive late. It is a completely new construction and there are some problems in the electronics."

The new 410T design is not expected to appear before the Estoril test in mid-February, leaving Schumacher and his team mate Eddie Irvine with a lot less testing time available than many of their rivals.

During the weekend, Schumacher was in London to receive his World Championship Trophy at a prize giving ceremony at the Royal Automobile Club. Questioned by reporters about his hopes for the coming season, Michael said he was not expecting to retain his title.

"I think it's realistic to say that the 1996 championship is not really in our hands. I believe it will go somewhere else. For the championship itself you need to score points in every race and I am not sure we can do that."

Schumacher's tip for success in 1996 is his bitter riva,l Damon Hill.

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