Mansell changes gear and keeps winning

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The Independent Online
NIGEL MANSELL made a fruitful and exciting transition to his new racing code in Surfers Paradise yesterday by winning the Australian IndyCar Grand Prix.

The 39-year-old Briton, who won the World Drivers' Championship last year after dominating the Formula One season, became only the second man to make a successful IndyCar debut after his compatriot and hero, Graham Hill, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1966. He is also the only man to take pole position and win in his first race.

The spectacle around the streets of the Queensland resort raised the possibility of IndyCars providing strong competition for Formula One among television audiences. The grand prix was broadcast in 90 countries, including twice yesterday in Britain on Eurosport, the satellite channel, where it will be shown again today at 4pm.

Mansell's presence, after an acrimonious departure from the winning Williams team last year, gave the event greater exposure. With Formula One anxious to maintain the attraction provided by Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna's duel in the South African Grand Prix eight days ago, Mansell's performance - not without its dramatic moments - has provided a worthy rival to motor racing's showcase.

The main differences to Formula One are the similarity of the IndyCars, which makes for closer racing, the nature of the circuits, which are inclined to be ovals or city-street tracks, and the more frequent pit stops made in the American code. IndyCar racing is also noted for the use of yellow caution flags and a pace car to slow the field in the event of an accident.

Mansell's second assignment for the Newman-Haas team, led by the actor Paul Newman, will be a different test of his skills and concentration: the oval circuit in Phoenix, Arizona, on 4 April.

There drivers race between walls without the security of run-off areas, which are on all Formula One circuits.