Motor Racing: Mansell's bravery is rewarded with third place: Britain's Formula One world champion courts controversy in incident-packed Long Beach IndyCar race

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The Independent Online
NIGEL MANSELL fought off the agony of constant back pain to finish a brave third in the Long Beach IndyCar road race, the third round of the PPG World Series, in California last night. The race was won by the Canadian, Paul Tracy.

Mansell, the 39-year-old Formula One world champion, brought his Newman-Haas Lola-Ford home safely - but only after another typically incident-packed race in which he surived a controversial crash with Al Unser Junior.

For the battling Briton it was a superb performance coming only two weeks after his horror crash at the Phoenix Oval, but ultimately a disappointing result. Mansell had started from pole position after clocking a record lap time for the Monaco-style street track on Saturday afternoon.

The race began with a bang as the Phoenix winner, Mario Andretti, and Sweden's Stefan Johansson came together as the green flag waved.

Mansell led from the start but was passed by Tracy after three laps before regaining the lead when the Canadian roared into the pits with a puncture.

That came after 37 laps of the 105- lap race but Mansell was unable to hang on to his lead after the second round of pit-stops before he was hit from behind by Unser Jr on lap 55.

The American was forced to retire immediately, while Mansell continued. Unser Jr was trying to slide inside Mansell when he struck a concrete barrier and then bounced off Mansell. 'I set up Nigel high on the exit of turn 1 and was ready to pass him on the exit of turn 2,' an angry Unser Jr said. 'I've never seen anybody block me as bad as Nigel blocked me today. He knew exactly where I was when I was behind him. Then, as soon as I got beside him, he had no idea where I was. He parked me against the wall.'

Tracy lost the lead again on lap 61 when he pitted with another flat tyre, again giving up the top spot to Mansell's Ford Cosworth-powered Lola. Tracy came back out in sixth place and kept charging.

Another full-course caution came on lap 72 when Robby Gordon and Eddie Cheever tangled in the hairpin turn. Mansell and several of the other leaders pitted, but Tracy, told by his crew he had sufficient fuel to go the rest of the way, stayed on the track and regained the lead for good.

Mansell was beaten out of the pits by Andretti and soon began to slide back with a transmission problem. Andretti eventually stopped with an electrical problem, Scott Goodyear, who had two stop-and-go penalties for speeding on the pit lane, hit a barrier and went out, and Raul Boesel stopped on course moments after Rahal had taken second place from him.

The attrition allowed Mansell to move up to a podium finish and Teo Fabi finished fourth, the last driver on the lead lap. Roberto Guerrero was fifth and rookie Robbie Buhl sixth.

Tracy averaged 93.089 mph as he joined Mansell and Andretti as a race winner this season.

On Saturday Eddie Lawson, a four- time Formula One motorcycle champion, ran away with the 10-lap Toyota Pro-Celebrity race at Long Beach. The pro-celebrity race is run annually as part of the IndyCar Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.