Motor Racing: Mansell puts icing on the cake: Briton extends his IndyCar lead in double celebration

Click to follow
The Independent Online
NIGEL MANSELL celebrated his 40th birthday yesterday by racing the wheels off his Newman-Haas Lola Ford for his fourth IndyCar victory and his third on an oval. It was vintage Mansell.

He kept at it from start to finish, overcoming the disadvantage of a faltering pit stop, heavy traffic and far less experience on ovals than his closest competitors.

The slight advantage Mansell gained from a single-file start on the first lap was soon eaten away by a rampaging Paul Tracy, who set the tone for the race in a 15- lap wheel-to-wheel dice with his fellow Canadian, Scott Goodyear for second place. Once Tracy was clear, he took off after Mansell, caught him and passed him on lap 41.

While Mansell and Tracy vied for the lead, the Brazilian driver Emerson Fittipaldi charged up from a mid-field start to join the fray at the front. Mansell and Tracy traded the lead four times officially, but that did not count the number of times they swapped places on successive corners on the same lap.

With Tracy in the lead and four laps to go - about two minutes driving - and all attempts to overtake Tracy on the conventional inside line having failed, Mansell made the kind of inspired move for which he is famous by swinging to the outside to accomplish the pass finally.

'For two-thirds of the race, Paul and Emerson were so quick it was almost frightening,' Mansell said. 'Following them and watching as they got loose, I got the confidence that when I got loose I could keep my foot in it. That ultimately gave me the slingshot that I needed.'

Tracy kept on it right to the end, allowing Red Five a mere .4sec margin of victory. Mansell summed up the race, saying: 'We were driving our socks off. Whoever won didn't really matter, it was a fantastic race.' Reflecting on oval racing, he said: 'This is pure racing. It's the most thoroughbred racing I've ever done. Racing through traffic, everyone on an oval has to have discipline, and everyone out there was very professional.

'I've been in some races in the past, wheel-to-wheel at 200mph with Ayrton Senna and I'll tell you it doesn't even come close to what we've done today,' Mansell said. 'You never know what's going to happen next. You have to have discipline out there.'

In the end, traffic became the deciding factor throughout the race, allowing the leaders to catch each other and eventually allowing Mansell to execute the winning pass.

The unique challenge for any Formula One driver who comes to IndyCars is the oval - turning left for two hours. Mansell has now won three of only four oval races he has ever run. It seems safe to say he has their measure.

NEW ENGLAND 200 (New Hampshire International Speedway): 1 N Mansell (GB) Lola-Ford Cosworth 130.148mph; 2 P Tracy (Can) Penske-Chevrolet 130.138; 3 E Fittipaldi (Bra) Penske-Chevrolet 129.953; 4 R Guerrero (Bra) Lola-Chevrolet +1 lap; 5 R Gordon (US) Lola-Ford Cosworth +1 lap; 6 S Brayton (US) Lola-Ford Cosworth +2 laps; 7 B Rahal (US) Lola-Chevrolet +3; 8 A Unser Jr (US) Lola-Chevrolet +3; 9 J Vasser (US) Lola-Ford +6; 10 B Till (US) Penske-Chevrolet +6; 11 M Groff (US) Rahal-Hogan Chevy +6; 12 O Grouillard (Fr) Lola-Chevrolet +8.

Steve Robertson of England retained his title hopes in the 1993 Firestone Indy Lights Championship with his third victory of the season at the New Hampshire International Speedway. Robertson passed his team-mate and points leader, Bryan Herta of the United States, for the lead on lap 24 and kept in front to the finish.