Motor Racing: Andretti turning to words of wisdom: Former Indianapolis 500 winner pleads for a cautious approach from his rivals

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The Independent Online
NIGEL MANSELL starts his first Indianapolis 500 on Sunday aware that he faces one of the sternest tests of his career in trying safely to negotiate the first corner of the famous speedway.

The 39-year-old world champion, who starts on the third row in his Newman-Haas Lola Ford- Cosworth, will hit turn one at 220mph along with 32 other cars about four seconds after the start of America's premier motor racing event. In yesterday's Carburetion Day final practice session, Mansell recorded the second-fastest lap time of 222.497mph with only Scott Brayton's Lola Ford-Cosworth quicker at 223.547mph watched by 500,000 spectators.

This year the narrower motor speedway has caused some alarm among the more senior competitors, including Mansell's team- mate, Mario Andretti, who has appealed for a sensible, cautious start from his adversaries.

The 53-year-old 1969 Indy 500 winner knows all there is to know about competing in this gruelling race, but is concerned that the removal of the safety apron could cause problems as there will be little room to pass three abreast.

'The apron has been replaced by a rumble strip, a strip of grass and a warm-up lane when the apron had become such an important part of the driver's racetrack, but now there is even less room to manoeuvre,' Andretti said.

'I think at the start we are all going to have to have good thinking,' added Andretti, who will start in his 28th Indianapolis 500. 'The track is narrower than it has ever been since I came here in 1965. Even if the apron was bumpy, you could use it.'

Andretti insists the track is no longer wide enough to charge into that notorious south-west turn three abreast. He added: 'It is the responsibility of every one of us to keep this in check. If we get it wrong we're going to be in a big accident.'

Mansell will listen closely to whatever advice his colleague has to offer about this new experience for him. What the Englishman picked up from his 30 Formula One race victories will mean little when the green flag drops on Sunday - and he knows that he must play the first corner with caution.

'All my concentration will be going into turn one safely,' Mansell said. 'Provided I finish the race and score a few points, I will be happy. Of course there is a little bit of apprehension, but I'm just thrilled to be on the grid after what I have been through.'

Mansell's previous flirtation with oval racing was a painful and embarrassing affair. He did not even make the race line-up for Phoenix in April when, in trying to prove a point by going all out in practice, he ended up knocking a chunk of concrete out of the wall in an 180mph crash.

Nigel Mansell's team owner, Carl Haas, dampened speculation that the British world champion would race his IndyCar against a Formula One champion at the end of the season in Australia. 'I was approached but I told Bernie Ecclestone it's a non-starter. It's a no-win deal for us,' Haas said dismissively.