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Ralf to be replaced by Gene in France 30 Jun 2004

Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, Qualifying Day, Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada, 12 June 2004

Injured German driver out for an indefinite period

The Williams team have confirmed that Ralf Schumacher will be replaced by official test and reserve driver, Marc Gene, at this weekend’s French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours.

The announcement follows confirmation by doctors that Schumacher has sustained two fractures in his spinal column as a result of his high speed accident at Indianapolis ten days ago. He will require a recovery period of up to 12 weeks and it is not clear when he will be fit to race again.

“I wish Ralf well for a full recovery, and I hope to see him back racing before the end of the season,” said team boss Frank Williams. “In the meantime, we are fortunate to have a driver of Marc’s calibre to fill the void.”

Gene, a veteran of 34 Grand Prix starts has raced at Magny-Cours twice previously, and has completed 13,000 kilometres of testing in the Williams FW26 so far this season. His last competitive Formula One appearance was at Monza last year, where he also stood in for Schumacher.

“It is a shame that opportunities only come along when one of my colleagues has endured some kind of misadventure, but it is my job to make the best of such circumstances and ensure the team is not compromised by Ralf’s absence,” said the Spaniard.

“I have raced at Magny-Cours before, and I have clocked up thousands of kilometres in the FW26, so hopefully this will provide the basis for a good performance in France this weekend.”

The team added that in the light of Schumacher’s medical diagnosis, decisions regarding driver nominations for future races will be taken at a later date.