Motor Racing: Andretti puts on the pressure straight away

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THE 1994 PPG IndyCar World Series took to the streets yesterday on the 2.8-mile, 16-turn temporary street circuit in Queensland's resort jewel, Surfers Paradise, as Nigel Mansell took the provisional pole only 0.2sec ahead of Indy's prodigal son, Michael Andretti, writes Toni Toomey. In front of enthusiastic fans, drivers and cars answered one big question: would this season be as competitive as promised? Yes.

Among the top 10 on the provisional grid were three Lola-Fords, one Lola-Honda, all three Penske-Ilmors and three Reynard-Fords. The second of the two Lola-Hondas driven by team owner Bobby Rahal was 11th. The top 12 drivers broke the existing track record.

Mansell was quick all morning and quicker in afternoon qualifying session. 'We are pretty happy. We wanted the second session to be quicker.' Mansell attributed the quicker lap times to improvements in the circuit over last year: 'You can see around the corners; you can see the apexes and the exits.'

Michael Andretti, pleased with his return to IndyCars, attributed some of the speed to the new tyres developed by Goodyear. 'We were quicker because Goodyear have come out with a really good tyre.'

Questions persist about a Mansell return to Formula One. 'I don't have a crystal ball,' he said. 'Is it possible? Anything is possible. Is it probable? Probably not.'

He acknowledged that his salary in America is less than in Formula One, but added: 'I think I'm in a good position to say that money isn't everything. Happiness and good health are much more important. When you win the championship you reach a new plateau. When you make history that's something money can't buy.'

Mansell looks set to make history again in 1994.

AUSTRALIAN INDYCAR GRAND PRIX (Surfers Paradise, Aus) First official qualifying: 1 N Mansell, GB, Newman-Haas Lola-Ford, fastest lap 95.683sec, ave speed 105.160 mph (169.234 kph); 2 Michael Andretti (US), Chip Ganassi Racing Reynard-Ford, 104.979 mph; 3 P Tracy (Can) Penske Racing Penske-Ilmor 104.380 (167.979); 4 M Gugelmin (Bra) Chip Ganassi Racing Reynard-Ford 104.372; 5 E Fittipaldi (Bra) Penske Racing Penske-Ilmor 103.926; 6 Al Unser Jnr (US) Penske Racing Penske-Ilmor 103.754; 7 M Groff, (US) Rahal-Hogan Racing Lola-Honda 103.059; 8 R Gordon (US) Walker Racing Lola-Ford 103.035; 9 J Vasser (US) Hayhoe Racing Reynard-Ford 102.914; 10 S Goodyear (Can) Budweiser Racing Lola-Ford 102.846; Selected: 12 Mario Andretti (US), Newman Haas Lola-Ford, 102.736; 14 S Johansson (Swe) Bettenhausen Motorsports Penske-Ilmor, 101.900; 15 T Fabi (It) Hall Racing Reynard-Ilmor, 101.854; 20 J Villeneuve (Can) Forsythe-Green Racing Reynard-Ford 101.318.