Motor Racing: Prost to test McLaren: Frenchman's mission

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ALAIN PROST has moved a stage nearer joining McLaren-Peugeot by agreeing to test the team's new car, the MP4/9. The Frenchman, who announced his retirement from Formula One 48 hours before winning his fourth world championship last season, visited McLaren's factory, at Woking, early this week for a seat fitting. No date has yet been fixed for the test.

Ron Dennis, the managing director of McLaren, said yesterday: 'This will hopefully lead to Alain driving for us this season.' He added: 'When Alain tests, he will do so as a free agent.'

Prost, who won three of his titles with McLaren, is not, however, free to race for them again. He completed only half of his two-year contract with Williams-Renault and would have to negotiate a release from the Didcot-based organisation. That would entail the return of a severance payment of more than pounds 5m.

Prost said: 'I'm still in retirement, just having fun. I have a long friendship with Ron, we trust each other, that's why I'm testing. If by a miracle I did something with McLaren, it would be a great challenge.

''So if I had a mad desire to drive again, why not? There would be contract problems but they would not be impossible to resolve.'

Prost may delay a commitment to race for McLaren until after the start of the season, in Brazil on 27 March. Peugeot is toiling to produce the required power and reliability, and it is doubtful a man with a record 51 grands prix wins would settle for making up the numbers.

Dennis, who has secured the services of Mika Hakkinen, is intent on signing a third driver and appears torn between Johnny Herbert and Martin Brundle. Peugeot has expressed its preference for Herbert, but he is contracted to Lotus-Mugen.