Motor Racing: Mansell disturbs Penske procession

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The Independent Online
NIGEL MANSELL finished second, but it felt like a win to him. His Newman-Haas team manager, Jim McGee, agreed, telling Mansell: 'You did a hell of a job, everyone is really happy.' This was Mansell's best finish since his second place in Long Beach, and it moved him up to third in the IndyCar championship.

At first glance it looked like the same old story - a Penske flag-to- flag victory. The day belonged to Al Unser Jnr, who scored his fifth win, moving further ahead in the standings. But there was a difference yesterday, because it was not a Penske dominated race.

It was a clean getaway for the leaders, with Mansell passing Emerson Fittipaldi on the first lap. Mansell stalked Paul Tracy until he was bottled up in traffic before passing him.

There were a few moments of high drama for Mansell. First, he collided with his team-mate, Mario Andretti, in an incident that both drivers saw very differently. Andretti said: 'Mansell just came across and hit me. Car No 1 just miscued a little bit. I'm sure he didn't want to do it but he could have been more careful.'

Mansell, the former world champion and defending IndyCar champion, had a somewhat different view of the incident: 'My team-mate side-swiped me. I hope it wasn't on purpose, he should certainly watch were he is going.'

Mansell's second misadventure came when his left rear wheel clipped the wall. 'I was in a big power slide and I didn't want him (Tracy) to pass me.' Mansell stayed on the accelerator and glanced the wall, but any damage done did not impede him.

Midway through the race, Unser enjoyed such a commanding lead that only mechanical failure or a serious mistake could have deprived him of the victory. After the last pit stops Unser still held an insurmountable lead.

For a while Fittipaldi and Mansell stayed close enough to read the fine print on each other's cars. Then with 20 laps to go, Fittipaldi's car went up in smoke leaving Mansell 18 seconds in front of Tracy and 18 seconds behind Unser. Then it was Mansell's turn to just stay out of trouble and finish the race.

American television commentators repeated the belief that persisted all weekend, that the Penske cars may have traction control which is not allowed in IndyCars. For every expert willing to cite proof that they were running the technology, there was another who could prove that they were not.

Andrea Montermini returned to IndyCars with a flexible cast on his left foot following his crash in Barcelona in the Simtek. The gifted young Italian driver, who cannot find sponsorship support to match his talent, qualified in 24th place and reached 11th but lost his clutch in the last pit stop. Given his physical condition, he was pleased to finish 16th.

At the outset of the weekend, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway president, Tony George, fired another volley in his attack on IndyCar's control of the series. At least IndyCar's Andrew Craig took the move seriously.

''Our objective here at Indycar is to find a common ground with with the Speedway so that the Indianapolis 500 can remain part of the series. Indycar is enjoying larger numbers of entries, bigger crowds at the races and bigger TV audiences than ever before. Any agreement with the Speedway has to be an agreement between equals, between partners,' he said.