Motor Racing: Mansell in hospital after crash: British hero's return home ends with high-speed accident in touring car 'shoot-out'

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The Independent Online
NIGEL MANSELL'S fun run for the fans back home went spectacularly and painfully wrong here yesterday, leaving the double champion in hospital rather than the winner's enclosure.

The 40-year-old British driver, competing in the invitation touring car 'shoot-out' challenge race at the East Midlands circuit, lost control of his Ford Mondeo, slewed across the track at 120mph, clipped the front of Tiff Needell's Vauxhall Cavalier and plunged into a concrete wall.

Mansell was briefly unconscious and sat in his car for 20 minutes before being carried by stretcher into an ambulance. He was given treatment and a neck X-ray at the circuit medical centre before being transferred to Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, where he was detained overnight for observation. His condition was said to be 'satisfactory'.

Lyn Jarrett, the circuit medical officer and Consultant in Accidents and Emergencies at Queen's, said: 'He lost consciousness for a few seconds and when he regained consciousness he wasn't sure where he was. It took him several minutes to realise he had been in a race. He banged his head on impact and complained of pains in his back. He said the area where he had an operation earlier this year felt tender.

'He has no serious injuries but we have made arrangements for him to stay in hospital overnight because he had been unconscious and because of the back pains.

'It is normal procedure to remove the driver in his seat in cases like this. He was very concerned no one else was involved in the accident and hurt. Over the 10 minutes I spoke to him in the medical centre you could see the improvement in his condition.'

The accident was an all too familiar end to a typical, charging show by Mansell. His return to his home country drew a 60,000 crowd, almost double the attendance here last Easter for the Grand Prix of Europe and as big as that attracted by the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July.

Mansell, ever anxious not to disappoint, gradually got to grips with the alien Mondeo and had fought his way past Needell to third place with six laps remaining. Hungry for more, he overreached at the Old Hairpin and suffered the consequences. Needell, a presenter on BBC television's Top Gear programme, said: 'He just lost it. He went into a slide at 120mph and at 45 degrees. I expected him to go right but he came across me, hit me, and was punted into the wall.

'He was going too hard, but then he has got where he is by trying hard, and that's why the fans love him. That's the way it goes in this game. Nobody's perfect.'

The race and the prize of pounds 12,000 were won by David Leslie, who competed against Mansell when they were 13- year-olds flexing their ambitions in karting. Second was Paul Radisich, in the other Ford Mondeo. Needell finished sixth.

Mansell had planned to compete in the TVR Tuscan race later in the afternoon and then fly home to Florida in his private plane with his wife, Rosanne. Not for the first time, she found herself by a hospital bed.

Mansell sustained a serious head injury in a karting accident in his formative years and broke his neck during a Formula Ford race at Brands Hatch in 1977. He broke his back in a Formula Three crash in 1979, and crushed vertebrae during qualifying for the 1987 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

Earlier this year, he had a back operation after crashing his IndyCar on the oval track at Phoenix. He recovered from that setback to win the IndyCar series in his first season. The winner of the 1992 Formula One world championship, he turned down two offers to compete in the final two grands prix of this season to appear here and 'thank the British fans for all their support over 15 years'.

INTERNATIONAL TOCA TOURING CAR SHOOT-OUT (Donington Park): 1 D Leslie (GB) Vauxhall Cavalier GSi 7min 30.93sec (ave speed 93.75mph); 2 P Radisich (NZ) Ford Mondeo Si 7:32.68; 3 S Soper (GB) BMW 318i 7:36.57; 4 R Gravett (GB) Peugeot 405 Mi16 7:41.49; 5 D Coyne (GB) Peugeot 405 Mi16 7:41.93; 6 T Needell (GB) Vauxhall Cavalier GSi 7:43.83; 7 I Ashley (GB) Vauxhall Cavalier GSi 7:58.78. Fastest lap: Leslie 1:13.63 (95.69mph).

(Photographs omitted)