Motor Racing: Mansell left concussed and disappointed by retirement: Al Unser Jr's second victory makes perfect birthday present for his father. Toni Toomey reports from the Indianapolis 500

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The Independent Online
NIGEL MANSELL was left nursing stiffness and a slight concussion as Al Unser Jr claimed his second Indianapolis 500 victory here yesterday.

Mansell was forced to retire midway through the race just when he had conquered handling problems on his Lola-Ford. One lap down in third place, Mansell was mounting a challenge to the Penske-Mercedes of Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr. He was about to go into the pits when a yellow flag offered an opportunity to get himself back on the lead lap. Instead, Dennis Vitolo, a 37-year- old American part-timer making his first appearance in the race, made a mistake and ended up on top of Mansell's car, leaving the Briton with slight concussion, sitting in the middle of a cockpit fire.

'I don't feel great,' he said. 'I've got a bit of concussion. We'd been under the yellow for a lap and a half, and then somebody came and tried to take my head off. This is supposed to be the greatest race of all time (but) there are some drivers here that just come and do one race a year. I think it's a joke.'

It was a frustrating race for Mansell. The 1992 Formula One world champion and reigning IndyCar champion struggled early on and just as he was getting a handle on the boost that had plagued him from the start, he was black-flagged for a passing violation that also left him furious.

Meanwhile, Unser Jr was handed the race on a plate when, 17 laps from the end, Emerson Fittipaldi, looking like he had his third Indy 500 victory in the bag, hit a wall, leaving his team-mate to take the race.

The result delighted the winner's father, Al Unser Snr, who said his son had given him 'the best birthday present I could ever get.'

Jacques Villeneuve, who finished second, also had thoughts of his father - Gilles, the Formula One driver killed in 1982. 'My memories are of my father and not of racing,' he said. 'But definitely I would be glad to see his face today.'

The Canadian's second place was the big surprise of the race. From the first week of qualifying when the 23-year-old rookie put his car in the second row, observers expressed concerns that Villeneuve was wild and unpredictable. His team had no such worries and he proved he could keep his head about him, avoiding problems and driving an intelligent, consistent race.

INDIANAPOLIS 500 Leading final positions (US unless stated): 1 A Unser Jr 1994 Penske-Mercedes 200 laps (160.872mph, 258.843kph); 2 J Villeneuve (Can) 1994 Reynard-Ford 200; 3 B Rahal 1993 Penske-Ilmor 199; 4 J Vasser 1994 Reynard-Ford 199; 5 R Gordon 1994 Lola-Ford 199; 6 Michael Andretti 1994 Reynard-Ford 198; 7 T Fabi (It) 1994 Reynard-Ilmor 198; 8 E Cheever 1993 Lola-Menard 197; 9 B Herta 1994 Lola-Ford 197; 10 John Andretti 1994 Lola-Ford 196; 11 M Gugelmin (Bra) 1994 Reynard-Ford 196; 12 B Till 1993 Lola-Ford 194; 13 S Fox 1994 Reynard-Ford 193; 14 H Matsushita (Japan) 1994 Lola-Ford 193; 15 S Johansson (Swe) 1993 Penske-Ilmor 192; 16 S Sharp 1994 Lola-Ford 186; 17 E Fittipaldi (Bra) 1994 Penske-Mercedes 184; 18 A Luyendyk (Neth) 1994 Lola-Ilmor 179; 19 L St. James 1994 Lola-Ford 170; 20 S Brayton 1993 Lola-Menard 116; 21 R Boesel (Bra) 1994 Lola-Ford 100; 22 N Mansell (GB) 1994 Lola-Ford 92.