Motor Racing: Mansell set for Indy 500

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NIGEL MANSELL successfully qualified for the Indianapolis 500 yesterday, then headed for his Florida home and more treatment on his injured back.

He averaged 220.255mph for his four laps, finishing in eight place. He overhauled his fellow new boy and old rival Nelson Piquet but had the fastest newcomer honours stolen by Stefan Johansson, of Sweden.

Mansell, who will start the race on 30 May from the middle of the third row, was frustrated by the qualifying session. 'I'm used to qualifying in an hour, not all day,' he said. 'I almost hit the wall in turn four. But the track is a great equaliser for drivers and I'm looking forward to my first 500-mile race.'

Precisely when Mansell, whose first race was in March in Australia, returns depends on the verdict of the doctor who operated on him less than three weeks ago. Not unnaturally, the different format has its surprises.

'It's a new education and it's a great one. I'm grateful to be a part of this mammoth spectacle,' Mansell said. Refering to the alternative mode of qualifying, he said: 'I was advised that we should go quicker in the evening, In fact, we went slower, which was very frustrating. So, no doubt, will having to wait two weeks for the actual race.

Each car is allowed up to three qualifying attempts during the four days of time trials that set the 33-car field. Speeds were down from last year because of physical changes to the turns - narrowing the track by eliminating the apron and replacing it with rumble strips and a grassy area - as well as smaller rear wings that decrease downforce.

The Dutchman Arie Luyendyk claimed pole position from Mansell's Newman/Haas team-mate Mario Andretti and both agreed that the adjustments made qualifying different. 'It makes conditions that much more critical,' Andretti said. Luyendyk found that the way the track was laid out made it difficult to put four consistent laps together. 'If you go in the corner just a little too quick you'll run out of room coming off the corner.'

Even so, speeds were much slower than expected, with most drivers unable to even reach the speeds they did in practice.

It was the four-times winner A J Foyt who stole the show - before the serious racing had even begun - by announcing his retirement to the 250,000 crowd and then climbing into his car for one last circuit.

Times, Sporting Digest, page 29