Motorsport: Mansell takes rear exit

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The Independent Online
THE YEARS go by and don't we know it, but somethings never change and Nigel Mansell, who throughout his career has been a magnet for incident, had his comeback preparations interrupted when he was bumped off the track at wet and unforgiving Donington Park yesterday.

Mansell was negotiating the final corner of only his second lap in testing for Sunday's British Touring Car Championship event when his Ford Mondeo was hit from behind by the Vauxhall Vectra of independent driver Mark Lemmer.

Both drivers were unhurt but their cars were sidelined for repairs and Mansell's Mondeo was sent to the factory last night to have its rear end rebuilt.

Mansell evoked memories of his infamous clash with Ayrton Senna in Belgium as he brought his crippled car back to the pits, then headed for Lemmer's garage. This time the 44- year-old former world champion did not have to be pulled off his adversary's throat by anxious mechanics.

"I asked him if he was okay," Mansell giggled, "I know Mark very well and I just wanted to find out what happened. "He was very worried and said he was 100 per cent to blame for the incident. He apologised and then came down to our garage to apologise to the team for what had happened.

"I've got a bit of whiplash and a bit of a sore jaw and headache, but I'm okay and he's okay. Hopefully the car will be okay for qualifying and the races."

Lemmer, in his first season of BTCC competition, conceded he was responsible for the incident.

"I lost my braking point in the spray, locked up and ran into him. It happens and he must have a thing about Vectras because he had an incident with Derek Warwick's at Brands Hatch last month.

"He wasn't as angry as I know he can be and I can understand his frustration. He needed to get in some laps. I explained what happened and apologised. I also went to apologise to his team because they have a lot of work to do. But so have our guys. I'm frustrated as well."

Mansell acknowledged the hazards of exposing himself to this company. "I think I should have a bullseye painted on my car," he said. "I'm in a no win situation and some drivers perhaps try a little too hard when they are up against somebody with a bit of a reputation.

"I won't be getting any favours and I don't need any. It's not like it was five years ago. There are some good drivers in this championship and you can see the camaraderie. The series is big and highly competitive. There have been five or six winners already." Mansell, who is due to take part in further BBTC rounds at Brands Hatch, in August, and Silverstone in September, contends he has no extravagant ambitions for Sunday's two races.

"I just want to stay on the circuit and finish this time," he said. As for the future, he is non-committal. He has, he says, turned down offers to drive at Indianapolis and Le Mans, but intends to take stock in the autumn, "and then decide what to do from there."