Motor racing: Coulthard ready for grand prix campaign

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The Independent Online
DAVID COULTHARD is fitter than ever as he prepares for the world drivers' championship which begins in Melbourne on 7 March after going on an intensive training regime at home in Monaco.

Coulthard, 27, said: "The place is great at this time of year. I love getting on to the bike and out into the mountains. It gives you a real sense of accomplishment when you are up there looking down on Monaco - then you can freewheel all the way back down. I have worked much harder in training and am stronger physically, but whether that makes me go any quicker we will have to wait and see. I am fitter than ever, but every driver will say that. This is the time of the year when there is a lot of talk.

"I am really looking forward to racing again - I miss it. There is no substitute for the feeling before the start of a grand prix and the race down to the first corner. That's when you are wheel to wheel with another driver, not knowing which way they are going to turn."

Coulthard knows he has to seize the early initiative from his McLaren- Mercedes team-mate Mika Hakkinen, the reigning world champion. If he fails to do so Coulthard will again find himself a support act to the Finn in his likely title battle with Ferrari's Michael Schumacher.

He said: "Mika deserved the title last year. It must help your confidence being world champion, and I know he will be o trying his hardest. I am focused and determined to make sure I hit the ground running when the season starts, which I did not do last year. I have to get myself into a position where I can fight for the championship. At the moment I can envisage my McLaren being on pole position in Melbourne and leading at the first corner - that's what I am focusing on.

Meanwhile, Coulthard has spent pounds 130,000 on a motor home. He is confident the American-built road cruiser will prove a sound investment as he seeks an escape from the pressures of grand prix life. Coulthard's friend, Jacques Villeneuve, has also bought one.

He will give the motor home its first run-out at McLaren's test session in Barcelona this week. It comes equipped with a television, a video, a sound system, a shower and a cooker and also has its own washing machine.

Coulthard will use it at test sessions, but also hopes to take it to some European races. He added: "We do so much testing. Last year I must have done 90 days, which works out at three months in hotel rooms. It takes me 30 minutes to get from the hotel to the track. I can get from the McLaren motor home to my own in 30 seconds. That gives me an extra hour each day to do my own thing."