Motor Racing: Mansell faces formidable Fittipaldi

Click to follow
The Independent Online
WHILE Michael Andretti, the 1991 IndyCar champion races his Formula One McLaren at Silverstone, Nigel Mansell will race his Newman-Haas Lola at an airport in the midwest of America.

For Mansell this weekend marks some notable anniversaries. It was at Silverstone in 1990 that his Ferrari failed in front of his home crowd. Returning to the pits on foot, Mansell tossed his protective balaclava to the crowd followed by his racing gloves.

Later that afternoon Mansell called a press conference where he announced his retirement from Formula One. The memory of that declaration made even more poignant his return to Silverstone last year, driving for Williams on his way to becoming world champion. Mansell's victory nearly caused a riot as fans poured out on to the circuit while cars were still circulating on the cool-down lap.

Silverstone, however, is history, and Mansell's thoughts are now strictly on the race at hand in this teaming city by the Great Lakes where the pollution in the Cuyahoga River was once so thick it caught fire and burned for days.

The Cleveland 200-mile race run on a temporary circuit laid out on the runway and taxi lanes of the Burke Lakefront Airport presents some special hazards. The are bumps which launch the tightly sprung, low-riding IndyCars into flights of their own as the track surface fluctuates from tarmac to concrete.

The take-offs are not too bad, but the landings tend to shake up the cars, creating problems with mechanical reliability. Mansell's team produce reliable race cars, but so do Penske, the team of the defending champion, Emerson Fittipaldi.

The airport will stay open until the last minute, with the IndyCars having their first taste of the track today. Unlike Mansell, most of the drivers have raced here before and declare it to be one of their favourite courses for the passing opportunities it offers.

The weather here is hot and humid, and the competition between Fittipaldi and Mansell is heating up. The quiet contender is the Brazilian, Raul Boesel, who is second in the IndyCar championship. It promises to be a weekend of tough competition where Mansell will really have to strut his stuff just as he once did at Silverstone.