Motor Racing: Mansell under spell of IndyCars

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AFTER dodging raindrops for two days at the Phoenix International Raceway, Nigel Mansell was foiled by nature again yesterday: this time by wind. Although the skies over Phoenix were clear, gusts of 20-30 mph prevented Mansell practising for the Newman-Haas Racing team.

However, Mansell, who completed 70 practice laps on Thursday, should have plenty of opportunity to drive at Phoenix again later this month when the team returns for additional testing and his comments at yesterday's press conference suggested that he may be racing at Phoenix for many years to come. 'I've had two or three offers to return to Formula One in 1994 and two or three to return to Formula One in 1993,' he said. 'But my career and future are here in 1993 and although you can never predict the future I'd like to think I have a long-term future here.

'I'm not even thinking about 1994 and I honestly think my Formula One career has ceased. I have 30 wins. I won the world championship last year and if I'm going to leave Formula One I suppose it's nice to do it while I'm on top.'

Mansell feels more confident than ever about his decision to race IndyCars in 1993 after an impressive first day of oval-track driving on Thursday. Although rain washed out the morning and early afternoon sessions, Mansell eventually managed to complete two of his 70 laps at 21.4sec, just .5sec off the track record, held by Michael Andretti.

'Fabulous,' said Mario Andretti, Newman-Haas's other team driver, who is himself a former world champion. 'I'm not surprised. I've seen Nigel drive before and he's always been quick, super-quick wherever he goes.'

Mansell said: 'I give full credit to Carl Haas, Mario Andretti and the team. To be honest, all I've done is drive the car they set up. They made my job so much easier. I coudn't begin to contemplate a season of IndyCar racing without their assistance. Right now my comfort zone on the track is zero, but my comfort zone with the team and Mario is 100 per cent.'

Mansell was almost at a loss for words when asked to describe his first day on the Phoenix oval. 'I'm not used to it yet so I can't find the words to describe it,' he said.

'It's fascinating, an incredible challenge and much more exciting than I anticipated. To be quick you've got to carry speed all the way around the track and although I did a fair number of laps and started to get down to competitive times I can tell you that getting down to that last second is really tough.

'There's just no way that you can compare what goes on out there with anything in Formula One. The Newman-Haas Lola is a racecar and so is a Formula One car, but that's it.'

(Photograph omitted)