Motor Racing: Mansell third

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The Independent Online
NIGEL MANSELL qualified in third place for today's IndyCar race at the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway, the circuit that marked the Briton's unhappy oval debut last year.

The defending champion had the best time of the first morning session but that was later overhauled. Though Mansell and his Newman-Haas team found more speed in the afternoon it still was not enough to get the better of the Penske- Ilmor driven by Paul Tracy.

'This is the hardest of the one-mile ovals. You have the wind and the sand. There's only one racing line. There's going to be a lot of traffic out there,' Mansell said.

The sensation of the day was rookie Jacques Villeneuve, the son of the late Gilles Villeneuve, who put his Reynard on the inside of the front row on that car's first contest on an oval.

Common wisdom has it that when the temperatures go up, the track gets slick and the speeds go down. Add to that a wind whipping up the desert sand to slide about on the race track, and the speeds in the afternoon should have dropped noticeably. Instead, the speeds went up and the first eight drivers recorded laps in the 20-second range.

'I can't honestly tell you I'm comfortable here yet,' said Mansell, the defending IndyCar champion, who was injured here in 1993 after crashing heavily in practice. 'This is a very, very demanding place. No one should tell you otherwise. The speeds are incredible.'