Motor Racing: Senna and Mansell holding new talks

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WHILE the American Indy Car team, Newman-Haas, were expressing confidence that they will sign Nigel Mansell within the next few days, Frank Williams, the managing director of Williams-Renault, had talks last night with Ayrton Senna about the seat the Formula One world champion has vacated.

Mansell, who last Sunday announced his intention to retire from grand prix racing at the end of the season, is reluctant to reach a decision and insisted last night that he was still considering his next move. But Carl Haas, who co-owns the team with the film actor Paul Newman, believes the deal will go through.

Senna met Williams at Silverstone after a day of testing. The Brazilian, currently with McLaren-Honda, left their meeting smiling and joking with Brazilian television reporters. The clear inference is that he could yet join Williams in partnership with his former team-mate Alain Prost.

If Mansell agrees to his offer, he will renew an acquaintance with another Formula One world champion, Mario Andretti, one of the Englishman's original team-mates when he began his grand prix career with Lotus in 1980.

Indy Cars are the nearest equivalent to Formula One cars in North America and, though less sophisticated, reach average speeds of 230 mph on oval circuits. Half the series is contested on ovals, the other half on more familiar road-type tracks. The feature event is the Indianapolis 500, which attracts the biggest crowd in sport, about 450,000.

The seat being vacated at Newman-Haas is that of Andretti's son, Michael, the reigning Indy Car champion. He is moving the other way to join McLaren, the main rivals of Mansell's former team, Williams-Renault. Andretti Snr says Mansell, renowned for his pace and aggression, would 'be a wow' in the series. Newman-Haas are said to be offering Mansell pounds 3m for next season and the deal would not involve a domestic upheaval for Mansell, his wife Rosanne, and their three children. They already have a home in Clearwater, Florida.

What seems clear is that there is no possibility that Mansell and Williams can be reunited, despite British public opinion and the dissatisfaction of sponsors. A poll conducted for the French sports paper, L'Equipe, revealed that 60 per cent of their readers want Mansell to stay with the team, while 20 per cent did not want Prost, their countryman.

Williams earlier claimed they were not ready to announce their driver line-up for 1993, though it is generally believed Prost's services have been secured. Other contenders include the British trio, Martin Brundle, Mark Blundell and Damon Hill, who was yesterday testing Williams' new car, the FW15.