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Gerhard Berger, the oldest driver on the Formula One circuit, made a spectacular comeback Sunday, winning the German Grand Prix for his first triumph in three years.

The Austrian, who was considering retirement, gave Benetton-Renault its first win since 1995, when Michael Schumacher won the Grand Prix of Japan.

Berger, who will be 38 next month, had missed the previous three Grand Prix races because of sinus surgery. Less than two weeks ago, he buried his father, who had died in a plane crash.

"I was very motivated because I wanted to show that I still had it in me although I am not the youngest any more," Berger said.

On Thursday, Berger said he would leave Benetton at the end of the season and had even talked of retiring. But Sunday's impressive win revived his career.

"The pole position, the fastest lap, the victory -- it couldn't get any better," Berger said.

Berger's last Formula One victory also came in the German GP, in 1994, when he was driving for Ferrari. His 10th career victory came in his 203rd Grand Prix race.

Schumacher, seeking his third drivers' title, finished second in a Ferrari, with Mika Hakkinen of Finland third in a McLaren-Mercedes.

Berger covered the 45 laps in 1 hour, 20 minutes, 59.046 seconds, averaging 141.036 mph. He also clocked the fastest lap, 144.012 mph.

With seven races left in the 17-race season, Schumacher extended his lead over Jacques Villeneuve of Canada in the drivers' standings.

LaJoie, Martin big winners

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Randy LaJoie beat all the big names, and Mark Martin did what was necessary to win a record third championship in the final event of the 1997 True Value Firebird International Race of Champions series.

LaJoie, the defending NASCAR Busch Grand National champion, went from seventh in the 12-man all-star lineup to first in three laps, and led the rest of the 100-mile race on the 2-mile, high-banked Michigan Speedway oval.

Martin, who won two of the four IROC races this season, came into the finale knowing a finish of seventh or better would clinch the title no matter what Gordon and Al Unser Jr did. They were the only other drivers with a shot at the $225,000 first-place money.

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