Motor Racing: Mansell off track and off the qualifying pace: Crash mars IndyCar qualifying in Canada as Fisa makes petrol peace with leading Formula One teams

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The Independent Online
AS THE second and last group of IndyCar qualifiers went out here yesterday to find their place on the provisional starting grid, Nigel Mansell could only sit and watch his shaky 11th spot slip further down. With only four minutes left, the session was red- flagged while the safety team gingerly extricated Olivier Grouillard, the Formula One driver turned IndyCar owner-driver, from his disabled car.

When the session resumed, two more drivers, Robbie Gordon and Arie Luyendyk, found enough speed to knock Mansell down to 17th on the provisional grid.

It was a difficult day for Mansell, beginning in the morning when he went out with a new rear suspension that just did not work, and ending with an accident that required his presence, albeit temporarily, in the medical centre. He was given a clean bill of health after crashing into a tyre barrier in the first practice session.

With the Penske cars clearly dominant lately, the teams running Lola chassis have come up with some big changes which got mixed reviews.

'We put a new suspension on the primary car that was supposed to be better, but it wasn't better,' Mansell said. 'We just don't have any grip. No grip at all. We will have to get that straightened out before tomorrow.'

Mansell's team-mate, Mario Andretti, confirmed that he was having the same suspension-related problem. 'We are going back to what we used before,' Andretti said.

The Newman-Haas crew preparing Mansell's car planned to make a late night of it yesterday, changing the set-up and the engine. Mansell was also down on power.

The mishap that temporarily closed the afternoon session involved Grouillard's car slamming head-on into the tyre barrier in a run-off area. It was feared that Grouillard might have injuries to his legs or feet as a result of damage to the nose of the car.

This is one worry that Mansell does not have to deal with in his 1993 chassis. After the horrific lower-extremity injuries suffered by Nelson Piquet and Jeff Andretti at Indianapolis in 1992, a radical redesign of the front of the car was instituted to prevent such injuries in the future. Five inches and an extra bulkhead were added to the front of the car. Tunnels were created above the driver's legs which allow enough room for their legs to retract all the way into the cockpit rather than being trapped in a tangle of violently collapsing composite.

Assuming that the Newman-Haas team will find a better set-up for the car, the final qualifying session today will still present some unique difficulties for Mansell. Because of his time yesterday, he will be required to qualify with the slower group of drivers. With the slower traffic on the track, it will be more difficult for 'Red Five' to get a quick lap that will place him high on the starting grid.