Motor Racing: Mansell out to reach goal amid rubble

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The Independent Online
NIGEL MANSELL and the Williams-Renault team were reunited here yesterday, sifting through the rubble of an acrimonious fortnight to focus their attention on Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix. There is a job to be done and their differences have been put on hold.

For Mansell the objective is to achieve a record ninth victory of this already momentous season. That landmark has eluded the world champion for the past three races and only three rounds of the campaign remain. He has been successful at neither of the final two stops, Japan and Australia, and, even in the cockpit of the Williams FW14B he may fear his luck will not necessarily change.

This circuit, however, has provided the setting for some of the more eventful episodes in Mansell's Formula One career and it would surprise no one if he claimed another page in the sports history books on this, his last scheduled appearance here.

Mansell produced one of his most memorable performances here in 1985, charging from a pit- lane start through the rain and the field to finish fifth. The following season he won. In 1989 he was shown the black flag for reversing in the pit lane, raced on saying he had not seen it, and collided with Ayrton Senna. He was subsequently fined and banned from the next Grand Prix. The following season he won.

Twelve months' ago he was on course for victory again, but as he pulled away from a pit stop a wheel came adrift. His crew replaced the wheel in a prohibited area and he was eventually disqualified. This season? Barring pit-stop catastrophes, he ought to win.

Mansell, who switches to Indycars next season and insists he has no intention of returning to Formula One, said: 'I've come here completely fresh, comfortable and content, and I'm going to go about my business and try to win the race. My future is settled and I've no worries. I have no problem with the engineers or mechanics. They are as motivated as I am to go out on a high. It is also important for the Williams team to win again. We haven't won for three races and it is time we won again.

'This is a circuit I like. I've won here a couple of times, and twice more I've been in great shape to win here, only for a few other things to happen. It would be important to get that ninth win because it's never been done. We've slipped in terms of reliability over the last few races and it would be nice to bounce back here. This is my last race in Europe so it means a lot to me.'

Martin Brundle, who was second in Italy 12 days ago, where Mansell announced his retirement, is anxious to be there or thereabouts again this weekend. Released by Benetton-Ford, he knows he could be close to securing a drive with Williams next season.

Alain Prost is due to take the other seat but the official announcement will not be forthcoming until the team's managing director, Frank Williams, accepts he cannot accommodate Senna.

Williams and the Brazilian are being frustrated by Prost's alleged exclusion clause, although Senna may be tempted to stay with McLaren after all if they do indeed succeed in acquiring Renault engines.

The demise of Brabham and Fondmetal means that only 26 cars are entered for this week's grand prix, so no one will be eliminated during the qualifying sessions. It will be purely a contest for grid positions.