KL Minardi team founder, Gian Carlo Minardi, yesterday returned from an important, week-long trip to Moscow, during which he attended a number of meetings with senior members of the Russian motorsport community as well as spending time with members of the media. Minardi was also honoured to visit the Kremlin as a private guest.

Accompanied by his son, Giovanni, Minardi powered through a busy schedule that included taking part in press conferences on three consecutive days, hosted respectively by Sergey V Ouchakov, the General Secretary of the Russian Automobile Federation, Alexander V Krasnenkov, member of the Executive Board of the team's newest commercial partner, Gazprom, and Minardi test driver, Sergey Zlobin, along with personnel from his management team. During this last event, it was confirmed that Zlobin would continue in his role as a test driver for Minardi in 2003, and that the team would work with the young Russian driver with the ultimate aim of preparing him for Formula One.

"I had an excellent welcome in Russia, where I quickly came to realise how popular the team is as the result of its links with both Gazprom and Sergey Zlobin," commented Gian Carlo Minardi on his return to Italy. "Media attention was high throughout the visit, and I enjoyed meeting with members of the Russian press on several occasions. We took the opportunity to announce our intention of evaluating a number of young Russian drivers, some of whom have already made initial contact with the team. We were also able to reveal that we have spoken with some potential new sponsors, who are interested in using Minardi as a promotional vehicle."

"I was very pleased to meet Mr Alexander Krasnenkov once again, this time at Gazprom's headquarters. I was able to explain to him that the Minardi team is looking forward to providing a high-profile promotional vehicle for this impressive Russian company. As a result, we anticipate pursuing new marketing activities and events that may well go beyond the immediate sphere of Formula One."

"Speaking personally, I wish to thank all those who extended such a warm welcome to us while we were in Russia, and I am particularly grateful for having been invited to visit the Kremlin as a private guest. It was a very special honour and a unique experience, for which I must sincerely thank our Russian hosts. We look forward to building on the strong relationships that have been established as a result of this very enjoyable trip."

Supporting the visit, a Minardi Formula One car was displayed outside Gazprom's Moscow headquarters. Despite the plunging temperatures and chill winds of an approaching Russian winter, it attracted considerable interest, both from members of the public and from enthusiastic company employees, many of whom took the opportunity to view a current Formula One car for the first time.