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Celebs hit tarmac
By LUKE DENNEHY
26feb02
Herald Sun


WINNING a spot in the 26-field celebrity race at the Grand Prix is a much sought after honour.

Yesterday the 26 celebrities from all walks of life had their first training run at Sandown for Sunday's race at the Albert Park circuit.

It was all smiles, but later in the week the competition can be just as fierce as the main race.

The star attraction, actor Antonio Sabato Jr, revealed he was a huge race fan and has big hopes for Sunday.

The Los Angeles-based star loves Australia so much he hopes to buy a house here in the future and make a movie in Melbourne.

"It has a multicultural population, its people are great, the nature of the country stands alone," he said of Australia.

"I want to show Melbourne and different parts of it. The culture and the architecture."

He will next be on Australian TV screens in a telemovie on Channel 9, in which he stars with Kimberley Davies.

Racing is his passion and yesterday Sabato quickly got used to the new Mini Cooper.

"I love racing, I love everything about it.

"I'm ready, I just want to take it a notch up."

Racing is a hobby Sabato uses to get away from movies.

"I grew up with Formula One."

Sabato will leave Australia on Monday.

Two of his rivals will be surf superstar Layne Beachley and tennis player Alicia Molik.

Beachley, who has won four world surfing titles in a row, arrived in Australia on Saturday after a stint of snowboarding.

The first day of training was fun for her.

"I thought I was going a bit slow at the start, but that was normal."

The cars are left hand drive, which is natural for Beachley. She learnt to drive in Europe.