Schumacher's wings clipped by Eurofighter jet
GROSSETO, Italy (Reuters) - Michael Schumacher won a record sixth Formula One title last season but he has met his match in a series of exhibition races against a Eurofighter jet.
The aeroplane, piloted by former Italian astronaut Maurizio Cheli, has a top speed of nearly 2,500 kph and becomes airborne after 400 metres.
On paper, it looked like a mismatch, especially after Schumacher lost all three practice races on Wednesday.
Even on the damp and slippery runway of Grosseto's Baccarini airport, however, Schumacher's world championship-winning Ferrari F2003-GA posted superior acceleration.
The German won the opening sprint over 600 metres, flashing across the line half a car length ahead of the jet in front of thousands of spectators in the small Tuscan city.
In the second race, however, over 1,200 metres, Schumacher quickly fell behind when the aeroplane roared into the sky and the German was also beaten in the 900-metre decider.
Asked how racing against the jet compared to driving against his Formula One rivals, Schumacher said: "There's a lot less pressure for sure, though this is a very interesting experience."
Cheli, meanwhile, played down his victory.
"Every man is a king in his own kingdom," he said.
The event was originally seen by Italy's defence secretary Filippo Berselli as a showcase for Italian industry but it could be argued that Schumacher was participating in the latest in a tradition of novelty races designed to satisfy Italians' passion for cars and speed.
In 1931 Tazio Nuvolari, nicknamed the flying Mantuan and one of the stars of Enzo Ferrari's team, took the wheel of an Alfa Romeo 2300 against a biplane in Rome.
Fifty years later another Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve edged out an F-104 starfighter in a one km race in Northern Italy.