Motor Racing: Mansell has a bee in bonnet over Penske

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The Independent Online
THE 1994 Indianapolis 500 could be anybody's race, or it could be Penske's race. Tomorrow the world will finally know if Roger Penske's boys have been hiding some speed, or if they are after all just part of an even playing field.

During final practice, Nigel Mansell's team-mate, Mario Andretti, was quickest, while Mansell was fourth on the time sheets. The Penske cars were no better than third and 10th quickest.

However, the best-lap speeds apparently do not tell the whole story. At one point early in the session when Mansell got behind him, Emerson Fittipaldi poured on the steam and shot away from the Lola-Ford. A stunned Mansell minced no words when he got back to the pits. Making reference to a United States Automobile Club rule that permitted Penske and Ilmor to use Mercedes money to develop an engine capable, some say, of generating up to 1,000 horsepower, Mansell said: 'It's a dumb rule. I am not happy with the engine disparity.'

Even the usually taciturn Newman-Haas team manager, Jim McGee, spoke out to the press, warning that this could be enough to clinch Mansell's flight back to Formula One.

The weather is a wild card. The month at Indy has dished up all the choices. One thing they will not do is race on a wet track. Goodyear would have to make five different tyres, one for each corner of the car and an extra inside rear to provide a stagger option - the difference in diameter between the two rear tyres. To control costs, and for the sake of safety, the Indy teams have decided against that.

Morris Nunn, the engineer, and Raul Boesel, the driver, are Dick Simon's best hope for that elusive 500 victory. Nunn has engineered three Indy wins for different drivers and teams. However, the team have been in disarray most of the month with Simon trying to personally orchestrate a stable of six cars. Then, in the middle of the month, Nunn walked out in a fury over Simon having given his qualifying set-ups to another team. After Simon spent three days hurling public insults at his chief engineer, Nunn returned. But the team chemistry was all but destroyed.

If Boesel - quick, talented and determined - manages to overcome these handicaps, he still must deal with the pit stops. The Simon team have a reputation for messing up one out of three pit stops, not a good average for a seven-stop race that historically has been decided in the pits.

Though much has been made of Lyn St James 'out-qualifying' Mansell, by her own admission she was lucky with the weather. She has a history of driving a cautious, intelligent race. She stays out of trouble, but she does not dazzle - and she, too, must visit the Simon pits for service.

The ones to watch are the ones that no one has been watching all month. There are two Reynards on the second row, an impressive debut for a new chassis. The rookie Jacques Villeneuve qualified his Reynard-Ford .05mph quicker than Michael Andretti, who will start next to him in similar factory-supported equipment. Villeneuve, though, lacks experience in a 500-mile race and his record of mistakes is cause for concern.

The third Penske car, driven by Paul Tracy, is not expected to be a threat. Tracy is starting from the ninth row with a low qualifying speed. Nor have his practice times been impressive.

If the Penskes do not simply run away with the race, then the Newman-Haas entries have the next best chance to take the victory. This is Mario Andretti's last Indy 500. The legendary Andretti bad luck has robbed him of a win here more than once. Andretti wants to record a second Indy win before he leaves and he has the savvy and the equipment to do it.

Mansell has demonstrated his prowess on the ovals and he has mastered the unwritten rules of the restart that cheated him last year. Winning the Indianapolis 500 is one piece of racing history that Mansell very much wants to aquire. Summing up his chances, he said: 'I hope to stay close for the first 400 miles and then hope to go for it over the last 100. I'll give it the best I have.'

----------------------------------------------------------------- INDIANAPOLIS 500 GRID POSITIONS ----------------------------------------------------------------- ROW ONE 1 Al Unser Jnr 2 R Boesel 3 E Fittipaldi (US) (Bra) (Bra) Penske-Mercedes Lola-Cosworth Penske-Mercedes 228.011mph 227.618mph 227.303mph ROW TWO 4 J Villeneuve 5 M Andretti 6 L St James (Can) (US) (US) Reynard-Cosworth Reynard-Cosworth Reynard-Cosworth 226.259 226.205 224.154 ROW THREE 7 N Mansell 8 A Luyendyk 9 M Andretti (GB) (Neth) (US) Lola-Cosworth Lola-Ilmor Lola-Cosworth 224.041 223.673 223.503 ROW FOUR 10 J Andretti 11 E Cheever 12 D Dobson (US) (US) (US) Lola-Cosworth Lola-Menard Lola-Cosworth 223.263 223.163 222.970 ROW FIVE 13 S Fox 14 H Matsuda 15 D Vitolo (US) (Japan) (US) Reynard-Cosworth Lola-Cosworth Lola-Cosworth 222.867 222.545 222.439 ROW SIX 16 J Vasser 17 S Sharp 18 H Matsushita (US) (US) (Japan) Reynard-Cosworth Lola-Cosworth Lola-Cosworth 222.262 222.091 221.382 ROW SEVEN 19 R Gordon 20 R Guerrero 21 B Till (US) (US) (US) Lola-Cosworth Lola-Buick Lola-Cosworth 221.293 221.278 221.107 ROW EIGHT 22 B Herta 23 S Brayton 24 T Fabi (US) (US) (It) Lola-Cosworth Lola-Menard Reynard-Ilmor 220.992 223.652 223.394 ROW NINE 25 P Tracy 26 A Fernandez 27 S Johansson (Can) (Mex) (Swe) Penske-Mercedes Reynard-Ilmor Penske-Ilmor 222.710 222.657 221.518 ROW 10 28 B Rahal 29 M Gugelmin 30 J Paul Jnr (US) (Bra) (US) Penske-Ilmor Lola-Ilmor Lola-Ilmor 224.094 223.104 222.500 ROW 11 31 M Groff 32 M Greco 33 S Goodyear (US) (Bra) (Can) Penske-Ilmor Lola-Cosworth Lola-Cosworth 221.355 221.216 223.817 -----------------------------------------------------------------