Motor Racing: IndyCar circus is heading for Brands Hatch: Mansell is due back home while Prost impresses in Germany

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The Independent Online
THE return of IndyCar racing to Brands Hatch after a 15-year gap now looks a certainty after the team owners' vote to bring their show to the Kent track in October.

According to Team Dick Simon, the decision taken on Thursday, which was passed by a 90 per cent margin, will see Brands Hatch stage a full demonstration race the week after the last meeting of the regular IndyCar season at Laguna Seca, California.

All of the large teams and drivers - including Newman-Haas and Nigel Mansell - are expected to participate in a full schedule of practice and qualifying on Friday and Saturday 8 and 9 October, and a warm-up and then the race on Sunday 10 October. There will be prize-money, but no points awarded for the event. IndyCars have raced at the circuit before, in 1978.

The decision of the team owners will be sent to the IndyCar board of directors for final approval at a meeting that is expected to take place early next week. According to Simon, four of the five team owners who make up the voting members of the board approved of the idea.

That final hurdle forced Tim Bampton, a spokesman for Brands Hatch Leisure, to be cautious yesterday. He confirmed that Nicola Foulston, his chief executive, made a formal presentation to the owners in Chicago on Thursday after which the vote was taken. 'Negotiations are continuing apace,' he said, 'and so far the owners have responded favourably.'

Bampton said that IndyCar officials had visited the track and were satisfied with it. The circuit's position in a natural bowl with a good all- round view of the track is particularly suited to IndyCar racing, where spectators like to see all of the action, all of the time.

The biggest attraction would be the return of Mansell to British soil in a racing capacity. The attendance at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone two weeks ago was well down on the previous year when Mansell was winning the Formula One world championship with Williams. Coming to Britain would also fit in with IndyCar's desire to make significant inroads into Formula One's position as motor racing's premier activity.

Tony George, the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has been working with the Formula One Constructors' Association to bring Formula One to Indianapolis, the heartland of American racing. So it can be expected that George will strongly approve of IndyCars crossing the Atlantic in the other direction.

Likewise Bill Stokkan, the chief executive officer for IndyCar, long ago set his sights on moving IndyCar racing into the international arena. His support can also be anticipated.

The logistics of moving IndyCars overseas has worked smoothly since 1991, when tools and cars which are normally carried in large transporters across the North American continent and back were loaded into specially built cargo containers and flown to Australia.

In Mansell's rookie year, every race has presented the challenge of learning a completely unfamiliar circuit. Mansell has laid firm claim to his world's best title by qualifying on the pole, winning two races and leading in the points until last week, when a broken wastegate put him out of the race, dropping him to second in the PPG Cup race, three points behind Emerson Fittipaldi.

At Brands Hatch the tables will be turned and most of the IndyCar drivers, except some Formula One immigrants and the Red Five himself (Mansell), will be running on unfamiliar turf.

The race at Brands Hatch should mark the beginning of the great showdown between the IndyCars - described as Formula One cars on steroids, built larger and heavier to protect drivers in 200mph impacts with concrete walls - and the Formula One technological purebreds.

Mansell has relished the rough and tumble wheel-to-wheel competition in IndyCars. Now all his fans in Britain will get a first-hand taste of why Mansell is having so much fun.