Motor Racing: Anxious Mansell has to settle for third

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NIGEL MANSELL'S learning curve continues to be steep, and as he secured third place yesterday on the grid for today's Molson IndyCar race here, he was again having to get to grips with a new circuit and find out how his Newman-Haas car will behave.

The Lola chassis does not like the way the Ford engine puts the power down on the exit from a tight corner, but that did not seem to slow Mansell down too much in qualifying once he got acquainted with the lie of the land. Mansell said: 'I'm starting to learn the track. I got a clear lap on new tyres, the car came in with some grip and I was feeling more confident. It takes time to learn the track. Now I don't have to think about where the track is going.

'The pressure is enormous and there is a lot to learn. I'm trying to learn where the track goes, and how the car will do in the corners. The anxiety level is very high when there is pressure to perform and pressure to get into a corner when you don't feel comfortable with the car.'

The air was crisp in morning practice when Mansell's car 'came in' for him. The afternoon qualifying session took place under sunny skies that had warmed the track up. No one was as quick in the afternoon, and Mansell especially had trouble getting a competitive lap.

Rahal held the pole for most of the qualifying session but in the waning minutes of the session Mansell moved up to third and the Canadian Scott Goodyear snatched the pole, his second of the year. His earlier one was at Pheonix.

Asked how it would feel to have some new faces at the front of the grid, Mansell said, 'I have been learning how all them drive, and every race there are new people driving. Rahal is a very professional driver and I think it will be good for the championship. I am very glad that he is quicker than the Penskes.'

MOLSON INDY (Vancouver) Final qualifying times: 1 S Goodyear (Can) Lola-Ford 53.791sec; 2 B Rahal (US) Lola-Chevrolet 53.851; 3 N Mansell (GB) Lola-Ford 53.872; 4 P Tracy (Can) Penske-Chevrolet 53.961; 5 A Unser Jnr (US) Lola-Chevrolet 54.112; 6 R Gordon (US) Lola-Ford 54.209; 7 A Montermini (It) Lola-Chevrolet 54.274; 8 R Boesel (Bra) Lola-Ford 54.444; 9 T Fabi (It) Lola-Chevrolet 54.479; 10 E Fittipaldi (Bra) Penske-Chevrolet 54.560.