Motor Racing: Mansell finds jewel after the duel: World champion registers his first mile-oval victory and extends overall lead

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The Independent Online
AFTER crashing heavily on his oval- track debut in Phoenix earlier this year, Nigel Mansell replied to his critics with a convincing victory in the Miller Genuine Draft 200 here yesterday. While few doubted the world champion's ability on street and road courses, there were those who believed IndyCar's oval tracks would prove his undoing.

In Phoenix, however, Mansell had muscled the car around the track. At Milwaukee, he used finesse. 'This is marvellous,' he said. 'The team did such a fantastic job. On all the stops, Jim McGee (his team manager) called the yellows - told me when to come in.' Mansell's only problem occurred when he nearly overshot his pit on one such stop early in the race.

'I really thoroughly enjoyed it,' he continued. 'I was amazed, once you got into racing. And even with catching the people, when you started lapping, it was a different kind of racing again . . . when you get a three-car or four-car train, and then you're coming up on them quick, but then you can't get past because of dirty air - that's a new experience] At Indy, you had it with one or two cars, but not as much as here.'

After pacing himself perfectly and driving like an oval-track veteran, Mansell was well-placed near the race's end to duel with Raul Boesel, who had started on pole in a similar Lola-Ford.

Boesel's car had worked best on full tanks and fresh tyres, and after he took the lead on lap 142, it seemed he might score his first win in the series for Dick Simon's small team.

Relentlessly, though, Mansell pushed on, setting his personal fast lap on lap 170, 166 laps after Boesel set the race's best time. Soon, he caught the Brazilian. 'I ducked down half on the inside,' Mansell said, 'and Raul got a bit close to the car in front and caught his dirty air. I saw his front tyres turn just a little bit more, and I thought I was all right, he's got understeer now. So then I just floored it and was hoping I didn't get caught in the air, too, and it was enough to get by.'

Mansell dismissed suggestions he had now conquered oval racing: 'I still consider myself on a learning curve,' he said. 'I think that it's great racing. It's opened my eyes. Racing out there was very exciting, it was very busy and very different to what I've experienced before.'

A late yellow flag bunched the field one last time, but Mansell had profited from his disastrous restart at Indianapolis. 'I bunched them up - I'm a quick learner,' he laughed.

Boesel, who finished runner-up, said: 'I really had to wait until the first pit-stop to start improving the handling of my car. Nigel stopped later than me, so his tyres were in better condition at the end of the race. So I think that was the difference.'

Emerson Fittipaldi, who defeated Mansell at Indianapolis with a perfectly timed restart, came home third here despite tyre problems. 'I tried to make the adjustments in the cockpit,' he said. 'The first and second sets were loose, and the last were really loose.'

Bobby Rahal, IndyCar's defending champion, finished fourth after a quiet race with his six-day-old Lola- Chevrolet. Competition resumes on Friday on Detroit's Belle Isle.

INDYCAR WORLD SERIES (Milwaukee) Leading positions (US unless stated): 1 N Mansell (GB), Lola- Ford, 200 laps, 1hr 48min 8.245sec; 2 R Boesel (Bra), Lola-Ford, 200 laps, +0.514sec; 3 E Fittapaldi (Bra), Penske-Chevrolet, 200 laps, +4.451; 4 B Rahal, Lola- Chevrolet, 200 laps, +13.296; 5 A Unser Jnr, Lola- Chevrolet, 198 laps; 6 S Brayton, Lola-Ford, 198 laps. Championship standings: 1 Mansell 70; 2 Boesel 52; 3 Fittipaldi 51.