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Motor Racing: Mansell is quick to close the gap: Brazilian falls foul of flying Finn as pile-up mars start of the Pacific Grand Prix - Briton keeps his cool in California

NIGEL MANSELL yesterday closed the gap in the PPG Cup standings with a second-place finish behind Al Unser Jr, who posted his fifth win on the 1.59-mile temporary street circuit of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, writes Toni Toomey from Long Beach.

Emerson Fittipaldi, who fell victim to transmission problems, retains a one-point lead over Unser Jr and a two- point advantage over Mansell.

Mansell went into the race knowing that the Team Penske trio had a distinct power advantage. As mishap and misfortune eliminated the Penskes at the front, Mansell delivered a businesslike performance driving consistently and making no mistakes.

Paul Tracy led from the pole in a strong start but squandered his lead early on with a venture into the tyre barriers. Fittipaldi and his team-mate, Al Unser Jr, were close at hand to take advantage of the Canadian's trouble.

Unser picked up first position from Fittipaldi during the first round of pit-stops, but a stop-and-go penalty assessed on 'Little Al' for speeding in the pits forced him to give the lead back to Fittipaldi. Mansell, meanwhile, maintained a steady pace behind the Penske antics. Just past the mid-race stage, Fittipaldi slowed with a sickly transmission and Unser Jr picked up the baton once again for Team Penske. With Fittipaldi out of contention, Mansell had begun to gain some time on Unser Jr when a puncture forced him to limp around the circuit back to the pits. Mansell's misfortune left him one lap down with Robbie Gordon and Raul Boesel in front of him.

Mansell eventually moved back into second position.

(Photograph omitted)