Nigel Mansell - Englands Best

Do you want to post a tribute about your favourite retired drivers, perhaps you want to discuss the rantings of the MIT (men in tweed). They thought they were safer when they retired, perhaps not mumblers!! How about a tribute to those that are not drivers but still in the game?

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Nigel Mansell - Englands Best

Postby St. Mackem of Kansas » Wed 03 Jan, 2007 9:21 pm

Nigel Ernest James Mansell OBE
(born August 8, 1953 in Upton-on-Severn, Worcestershire) is a British former racing driver from England who won world championships in both Formula One (1992) and CART (1993). He is the only person in history to hold both titles simultaneously, and was the first person to win the CART title in his rookie season.

His career in Formula One spanned 15 seasons, and he spent two seasons in CART. He remains the most successful British Formula One driver of all-time in terms of race wins with 31 victories, and is fourth overall on the Formula One race winners list behind Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost, and Ayrton Senna. He was rated in the top 10 Formula One drivers of all time by Murray Walker, who was a Formula One commentator for 50 years.

Currently Mansell races in the GP Masters series.

Mansell was born in Upton-on-Severn, a small town in the English county of Worcestershire. He spent most of his childhood and early adult years in Hall Green, Birmingham. He was a pupil at Rosslyn School, then Hall Green Bilateral, before studying engineering at Matthew Boulton College. He worked as an Aerospace Engineer at Lucas Engineering, before giving it up to become a full time racing driver.

He had a fairly slow start to his racing career, using his own money to help work his way up the ranks. After considerable success in kart racing, he sold most of his possessions and moved up to Formula Ford to the disapproval of his father.


Formula Ford

After considerable success in kart racing, Mansell moved to the Formula Ford series. In 1976 Nigel won 6 of the 9 races he took part in, including his debut event at Mallory Park. He entered 42 races the following year and won 33 to became the 1977 British Formula Ford champion, despite suffering a broken neck in a qualifying session at Brands Hatch. Doctors told him he had been perilously close to quadriplegia, that he would be confined for six months and would never drive again. Mansell discharged himself from the hospital and returned to racing. Three weeks before the accident he had resigned his job as an aerospace engineer, having previously sold most of his personal belongings to finance his foray into Formula Ford. [2] Later that year, he was given the chance to race a Lola T570 Formula 3 car at Silverstone. He finished fourth, and decided that he was ready to move into the higher formula. [3]

Formula Three
Mansell's first season in Formula Three started with a pole position and a 2nd place finish. However the car was not competitive, and after three 7th place finishes and a fourth in his last race, he parted with the team. The next season saw him take a paid drive with Dave Price Racing. Following a first win in the series at Silverstone in March, he went on to finish 8th in the championship. [4] His racing was consistent, but a collision with another car resulted in a huge cartwheeling crash which he was lucky to survive. Again he was hospitalised, this time with broken vertebrae. His driving was noticed by Colin Chapman owner of Lotus so shortly after his accident, hiding the extent of his injury with painkillers, Mansell performed well enough in a tryout with Lotus to become a test driver for the Formula One team.

Formula One

Mansell's skill as a test driver, including setting the fastest time around Silverstone in a Lotus car at the time, impressed Chapman enough to give him a trio of starts in F1 in 1980, driving a development version of the Lotus 81 used by the team, the Lotus 81B. In his Formula One debut at the 1980 Austrian Grand Prix, a fuel leak in the cockpit that developed shortly before the start of the race left him with painful first and second degree burns on his buttocks. Car failures forced him to retire from that race and his second, however an accident at his third event at Imola meant he failed to qualify. Team leader Mario Andretti wrote his car off before the final race of the season and Mansell had to give up his car for Andretti to compete in it. Andretti announced he was leaving to move to Alfa-Romeo at the end of the season leaving Lotus with a vacant race seat.

Despite Mansell being unpopular with one of the teams backers, David Thieme, and much speculation in the press that Jean-Pierre Jarier would fill the vacancy, Chapman announced at the start of the season the seat would be filled by Mansell.

Mansell's four years as a full-time Lotus driver were a struggle, as the cars were unreliable. Out of 59 race starts with the team, he finished just 24 of them. He managed a best finish of third place which he obtained five times during the four years including in Lotus' fifth race of the 1981 season, and only the seventh of Mansell Formula One career. Team mate Elio de Angelis took a surprise win at the 1982 Austrian Grand Prix, and was frequently faster than his less experienced colleague Mansell.

During the 1982 season, Mansell planned to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans sportscar event in order to earn extra money. At the time Mansell was paid £50,000 a year and was offerred £10,000 to take part in Le Mans. Chapman believed that by entering the Le Mans race, Mansell was exposing himself to unnecessary risk and paid him £10,000 to not take part in the race. Chapman extended Mansell's contract to the end of the 1984 season in a deal that made him a millionaire.

As a result of the gestures such as the above, Mansell became very close to Chapman, and was devastated by his sudden death in 1982. In his autobiography Mansell stated that when Chapman died "the bottom dropped out of my world. Part of me died with him. I had lost a member of my family". Following that death relationships at Lotus became strained, as replacement team manager Peter Warr did not have a high regard for him as a driver. Warr was not keen on honoring the last year of the contract Mansell had signed with Chapman. However with encouragment from Lotus' sponsors, John Player Special, it was announced Mansell would be staying with the team.

In 1984 Nigel finished in the championship top 10 for the first time, and took his first career pole. At the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix Mansell surprised many by overtaking Alain Prost in a wet race for the lead, but soon after retired from the race after getting off line and losing control on the slippary painted lines on the road surface. Mid-way through the season, the team's new managers signed Ayrton Senna for the following year, leaving Mansell with no raceseat at Lotus. After receiving offers from Arrows and Williams, and firstly turning down Williams' offer, Mansell eventually signed for them.

Mansell was remembered by many this year when he collapsed while pushing his car to the finish line after the transmission failed on the last lap of the 1984 United States Grand Prix. The Grand Prix was the joint hottest on record, and after 2 hours of driving in 104°F (about 40°C) conditions Mansell fainted whilst pushing his car over the line to salvage a sixth place finish (and thus 1 championship point) in a race he'd started from pole and led half of.

Mansell's final race with the Lotus team was heavily compromised due to Warr's unwillingness to give Mansell the brake pads he desired for the race. With 18 laps of the race remaining, and with Mansell in second position, the brakes on his car failed. On Mansell's departure, Warr was infamously quoted "He'll never win a Grand Prix as long as I have a hole in my a!$e".

Mansell at the 1985 German Grand PrixIn 1985 Frank Williams snapped Mansell up to drive alongside Keke Rosberg as part of the Williams team, Mansell later saying "Keke was probably one of the best team-mates I've had in my career". Mansell was given the now famous "Red 5" car, which he drove throughout his career (for Williams and Newman/Haas) and which was brought to the public's attention mainly through commentator Murray Walker and his enthusiastic commentary for the BBC.

1985 initially appeared to provide more of the same for Mansell, although he was closer to the pace than before, especially as the Honda engines became more competitive by mid-season.

He achieved second place at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, and followed this with his first victory in 72 starts at the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch in England. He achieved a second straight victory at the South African Grand Prix in Kyalami. These triumphs helped turn Mansell into a Formula 1 star.

Going into 1986, Mansell had a new team-mate in Nelson Piquet. The Brazilian publicly described Mansell as "an uneducated blockhead" and criticised his wife, while Mansell privately felt Piquet did not pull his weight and was engaged in power politics. With five wins in 1986, Mansell narrowly missed out on the title after his tyre burst with 19 laps to go in the season finale in Australia. Mansell ended the season as runner-up to Prost. His efforts in 1986 led to him being voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Six more wins followed in 1987, including an emotional victory at Silverstone, in which he came back from 30 seconds in 30 laps to beat Piquet, then stopped on the track on his victory lap to kiss the spot where he had overtaken his rival. However, at the Italian Grand Prix he missed a gear change and was passed by Piquet on the first lap. A serious qualifying accident at Suzuka injured his back again (a spinal concussion) and essentially handed the title to Piquet, as the injury caused Mansell to miss the last race of the season.

Mansell was quickly becoming a fan favourite, as his good humour and 'down-home' manner reminded many people of the late Graham Hill, a two-time champion with a similar rise up the F1 ranks in the 1960s. He was also popular for his aggressive and fast racing style, and gained a reputation in the F1 paddock for complaining about minor details and believing that others were plotting against him.

In 1988 Williams lost the turbo power of Honda to Team McLaren, and had to make do with a naturally-aspirated Judd engine. A dismal season followed, which saw Mansell finish only two races of the fourteen he appeared in. He developed Chickenpox, taken from his sons Leo and Greg, that caused him to miss two more after he drove at the Hungarian GP, which made the condition even worse. However, perhaps not wanting to let down his adoring fans, he somehow managed second place and the fastest lap in the rain at the British Grand Prix.

In preparation for the 1989 season, Mansell became the last Ferrari driver to be personally selected by the late Enzo Ferrari before his death in August 1988, an honour Nigel described as "one of the greatest in my entire career". In Italy he became known as "il leone" ("the lion") by the tifosi (Ferrari fans) due to his fearless driving style. The season was one of change in the sport, with the banning of turbo engines and the introduction of the electronic gearbox. Mansell believed that 1989 would be a development year and that he be able to challenge for the championship the following season. In his first appearance with the team he scored an unlikely win in the Brazilian Grand Prix, his least favourite track and the home race of his bitter rival Piquet. He later said he'd booked airplane tickets home for halfway through the race as he predicted the car would last only a few laps. The rest of 1989 was characterised by gearbox problems and a disqualification at the Canadian Grand Prix. He also got black-flagged at the Portuguese Grand Prix for reversing in the pit-lane, and was subsequently banned for the next race in Spain. However, Mansell finished fourth in the Championship with the help of a memorable second win at the Hungarian Grand Prix, where, after concentrating on the race set-up of his car, he won after starting only 12th on the grid.

A tough 1990 followed with Ferrari, in which he had more reliability problems with the car, causing him to retire from seven races. In this season he was paired with Alain Prost, the reigning World Champion, who took over as the team's lead driver and played on Mansell's inferiority complex. Mansell recalls one incident where at the 1990 British Grand Prix, the car he drove didn't handle the same as in the previous race where he took pole. On confronting the mechanics, it transpired that Prost saw Mansell as having a superior car and as a result, they were swapped without telling Mansell. After retiring from the race, he announced he was retiring from the sport altogether at the end of the season. Mansell obtained only a single win, at the 1990 Portuguese Grand Prix and finished 5th in the world championship. His retirement was cancelled when Frank Williams again stepped in. Williams signed Mansell on the 1st October 1990 after Nigel ensured the contract stated that he would be the focus of the team, having experienced being the 'Number Two' driver at Ferrari. Mansell would be paid £4.6 million a season, a deal which made him the highest paid British sportsman at the time.

His second stint with Williams was even better than the first. Back in the familiar 'Red 5', he won five races in 1991, most memorably in the Spanish Grand Prix. In this race he went wheel to wheel with Ayrton Senna, with only centimetres to spare, at over 320 km/h (200mph) down the main straight. Quite a different spectacle was offered following Mansell's victory in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Senna's car had come to a halt on the final lap, but, rather than leave his rival stranded out on the circuit, Mansell pulled over on his parade lap and allowed Senna to ride on the Williams side-pod back to the pits. However, the Williams team's decision to develop their new semi-automatic gearbox by racing with it at the start of the season, was at the cost of points in the opening rounds of the championship. Senna was on 40 points by the time Mansell gained his first 6 in Monaco. Despite a good mid season, which included a hat-trick of victories, Senna's consistency (and Mansell retirements at key races) meant that he finished second in the Championship, behind Senna.

1992 would be Mansell's finest season, as he started the year with five straight victories (a record equalled by Michael Schumacher in 2004), and eventually won the Drivers' Championship by setting the then record for the most number of wins in one season and highest number of pole positions . He only narrowly lost the Monaco Grand Prix to Senna in high temperatures after a puncture, but still finished in second place and had to be supported on the podium. Mansell was crowned Formula 1 Drivers' Champion early in the season at the Hungarian Grand Prix, where he finished second, adding another record to his collection by winning the Drivers' Championship in the least number of Grands Prix since the 16-race season format started.

He won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award twice, in 1986 and 1992, one of only three people to do so.


Nigel Mansell driving in the American CART racing series in 1993Despite being world champion, Mansell had a falling out with Williams over money and the prospect of Frenchman Alain Prost joining the Renault-powered team - Williams neglected to tell Mansell that Prost had signed for 1993 at only the second race of the 1992 season, in Mexico. He consequently left to join the Newman/Haas CART team in 1993. He took over the seat of Michael Andretti, who ironically had left CART to race in Formula One for McLaren. At the season opener at Surfers Paradise, Australia, he became the first "rookie" to take pole position and win his first race. A few weeks later however, he suffered a crash at Phoenix International Raceway, and injured his back. At the Indianapolis 500, his first career oval track event, he led the race late, and finished third. He had a five-win season, and it was good enough to give him the championship. He became the only driver in history to hold both the Formula 1 World Championship and CART championship at the same time. On 31st October, Mansell took part in the TOCA Shootout at Donington Park, driving a Ford Mondeo in front of a crowd of 90,000 people. He retired from the race after having crashed into the bridge papapet following a collision with Tiff Needell. The 120MPH accident left Mansell unconscious but he made a full recovery. He had also been scheduled to drive a Tuscan in the TVR Tuscan Challenge the same afternoon, but was forced to pull out due to the crash. Following the successful season in CART, he received several awards including a Gold Medal from the Royal Automobile Club and the 1993 ESPY Award for Best Driver.

In an unreliable Newman/Haas car he did less well in 1994. It was during this season that Mansell "wore out his welcome" in the United States with glimpses of rude behavior, particularly after he was knocked out of the Indianapolis 500. After the crash, he stormed out of the track hospital, and refused medical care. When a reporter asked Mansell if he had spoken with Dennis Vitolo, the driver who had crashed into him, Mansell replied, "I don't know, you go speak with him." Subsequently, Mansell was set to sign autographs at a K-mart (the primary sponsor of his car), and due to a lack of demand, the event was cancelled. Mansell was also the catalyst for the breakdown in the relationship between himself and Mario Andretti. Mario has since remarked "I guess if Ronnie Peterson was the best team-mate I ever had, Nigel Mansell was the worst" and "I had a lot of respect for him as a driver, but not as a man." [11].

Return to Formula One

However, he made a Formula One comeback of sorts. After the untimely death of Ayrton Senna, he returned to Formula One with Williams replacing rookie David Coulthard for the French Grand Prix and the last three races of the season. Mansell was paid approximately £900,000 per race, compared to Williams' lead driver at the time, Damon Hill being paid £300,000 for the entire season.[12] Mansell won his last Grand Prix, the Australian Grand Prix, which was the final race of the season having out-qualified the two contenders for the title, Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher, in the process.

Mansell eventually ended up with McLaren in 1995, but, frustrated with his car's handling characteristics, he chose to retire after just two races with them. He missed the start of the season as the car cockpit was not big enough for him to sit comfortably.

British Touring Car Championship

Mansell made a return to racing in 1998 in the British Touring Car Championship, driving in a Ford Mondeo for three rounds. As it was, the Ford was highly uncompetitive - the manufacturer finished the season 7th out of 8 in the championship. With the number 5 already taken by James Thompson, Mansell raced with the red number 55. [13] [14]

At his first event at Donington Park, he retired 3 laps into the sprint race, meaning he would start the feature race in 19th position on the grid. As the conditions changed and the track got wetter, Mansell found himself leading the race for several laps and he finished in 5th position. The race was regarded by many fans as one of the greatest in touring car history.

It was to be his best finish in the series, as he failed to finish either race at the next round he participated in at Brands Hatch, and at his final race at Silverstone he finished in 14th and 11th place.Having competed in 3 of the 13 rounds, he finished 18th out of 21 in the drivers championship.

Grand Prix Masters
Mansell demonstrated a Jordan EJ14 in the streets of London before the 2004 British Grand Prix.
[edit] 2005
On the 16th July, Mansell took part in a Race of Legends exhibition event at the Norisring round of the DTM.He competed against Jody Scheckter, Alain Prost, Mick Doohan, Emerson Fittipaldi and Johnny Cecotto, each driver having an opportunity to drive the Audi, Mercedes and Opel offerings. Prost was announced as the winner by the DTM organisers.

Mansell became a financial stakeholder and a driver in the new Grand Prix Masters series. Following a period of testing and developing the car, Mansell made a successful race comeback by winning the inaugural race of the series in Kyalami in November 2005.

After the success of the race at Kyalami, four dates were scheduled for the GP Masters Series in 2006, including one at Silverstone. Mansell won the season opener at Qatar in April 2006 from pole position. The Monza round of the series was cancelled due to noise limitations at the venue, whilst technical issues quickly ruled him out of the Silverstone race.

He also made a comeback to Brands Hatch, scene of his first Grand Prix win, in May 2006, driving some demonstration laps in the BMW M3 GTR that Andy Priaulx drove to victory in the 2005 24 Hours Nüburgring, as part of the World Touring Car Championship event.

Mansell was awarded the title of BBC Sports Personality of the Year in both 1986 and 1992. Only two other people have won the award twice. Mansell was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2005.


Mansell only won the WDC once, but would have won it 3 times had he not been beset with bad luck. But our Nige had balls, and big ones at that. He partnered three former word drivers’ champions in Alain Prost, Keke Rosberg and Nelson Piquet.

MMS regulars said:-

the best racer of the last thirty years..... 31 wins and 1 wdc.

like the title of the thread too.with jim clark and even moaning jackie there is some dispute about britains best.

but our nige was englands best.sir stirling was perhaps a possible rival but most people who saw him race are pushing up the daisies a long time ago.

Anyway back to Nige, was one of the most exciting and commited racers I had the pleasure to watch. 1992 was an exceptional year for Nigel fans. The following year was also a great year watching him teach some of the Indy boys how its done..........FANTASTIC!

I was split in 1994/95 with all the DC/Nige debate on who would get the second seat at Williams. I really wanted Nige to return, but being from Scotland also wanted DC to get his chance.

Nigel Mansell is a god in our house-he was an awesome driver-he drove a car with everything he had and well deserved DWC xxx

(more text and pics soon)
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St. Mackem of Kansas
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