Motor Racing: Mansell is ready for Formula One: Briton exits IndyCars for Estoril

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The Independent Online
NIGEL MANSELL returns to the familiar surroundings of the Formula One circus today when he starts testing with the Williams-Renault team at Estoril in Portugal in the build- up to Sunday's European Grand Prix at Jerez in Spain.

The last outing of his two- year career in IndyCars failed to provide him with a dramatic exit line, as he finished a lacklustre eighth here in the Bank Of America 300. Nevertheless, he left America on Sunday night in upbeat mood.

'We're not going away empty-handed,' he said. 'We came here and won the championship. When I look at how difficult it has been this year it makes me appreciate even more what we accomplished last year.'

Now he joins up with Damon Hill for the last three races of the season cast in the unfamiliar role of supporting act as the younger Englishman tries to overhaul Michael Schumacher, who is just one point ahead in the world championship standings.

He will hope to have left the luck he has suffered in the United States behind him. His last race in IndyCars began promisingly enough, but ended, like many others this season, in profound frustration. When he avoided an outbreak of carnage on the first bend, it actually looked like the breaks were finally going his way as he led in the Lola-Ford.

A seized rear-wheel nut, however, forced the team to send him out with one worn rear tyre. Surprisingly, though, he was able to hang on to fifth place until he could come in for a full set of fresh rubber.

With that problem solved, Mansell had set out to catch the leaders when another full- course yellow was called, and a quirk in the rules put him behind the pace car and robbed him of any opportunity to challenge for the front.

Paul Tracy sailed to a flag- to-flag victory but the race really belonged to Al Unser Jnr, who muscled his way from last after the first-lap incident up to second before his car rolled to a stop with a broken transmission.

Britain's Steve Robertson, the new PPG Firestone Indy Lights champion, ended his year out of the limelight as an engine misfire robbed him of a shot at the podium.

BANK OF AMERICA 300: 1 P Tracy (Can) Penske-Ilmor, 84 laps, 92.978mph (149.630 kph); 2 R Boesel (Bra, Lola Ford Cosworth, 84; 3 J Villeneuve (Can, Reynard Ford Cosworth, 84; 4 E Fittipaldi (Bra, Penske Ilmor, 84; 5 T Fabi (It) Reynard Ilmor, 84; 6 A Luyendyk (Neth) Lola Ilmor, 84; 7 A Fernandez (Mex) Reynard Ilmor, 84; 8 N Mansell (GB) Lola Ford Cosworth, 83.

INDYCAR CHAMPIONSHIP Leading final standings: 1 Unser 225pts; 2 Fittipaldi 178; 3 Tracy 152; 4 Michael Andretti 118; 5 Gordon 104; 6 Villeneuve 94; 7 Boesel 90; 8 Mansell 88; 9 T Fabi 79; 10 B Rahal 59.