Mansell wins inaugural race
|By Tony Dodgins||Sunday, November 13th 2005, 13:07 GMT|
Nigel Mansell won a fine inaugural Grand Prix Masters race at Kyalami after being pushed every inch of the way by Emerson Fittipaldi.
Mansell, World Champion in 1992, led away from pole position and was never more than a second clear of his Brazilian rival, who claimed two World Championships in his GP career, one for JPS Lotus in 1972 and a second with Marlboro McLaren two years later.
"It was frantic and I might be able to do one quick lap but, hell, I can't do 30, can I!" Mansell joked. "I had tremendous oversteer out of the top hairpin and Emmo was very quick out of slow corners. But what a race!
"I enjoyed that as much as any of my GP victories. Every time I pushed hard I was doing the tyres and the brakes and so I just sat there a bit. My car for the last five laps was in tyre trouble and Emmo was a right pain. I just couldn't get rid of him!"
Fittipaldi added: "It was a close race and a fantastic one. I think I only did two years in F1 with Nigel but when he went to Indycars Ayrton Senna told me, you need to see Nigel's car control, it's fantastic. And he was right. We had some great races in America and I enjoyed this as much.
"The only thing I did wrong was finishing second. We were going at it hard out there. It was close. We had different balances. Nigel was quick in the fast corners but I had better traction. I nearly clobbered his gearbox on the last lap but got away with it."
The whole field ran close together in the early laps until Mansell and Fittipaldi were able to edge away from Riccardo Patrese, who was 20 seconds adrift at the end of the 30-lap race.
"I'm happy to be where I am!" Patrese said. "I thought I could stay with them at the beginning but I couldn't and at the end I was just happy to be third because Andrea (De Cesaris) was catching me."
Fourth place was the subject of a huge race-long scrap that totally exploded any idea that the 'Masters' were fifty-somethings who were here to pocket a few bucks and relive former glories. The reality is that most of those out there still work out religiously and still have the same innate competitive streak that helped them to the top of F1 in their heyday.
As series co-ordinator Bob Berridge said: "When this lot get off a plane they still want to be first to the baggage hall!"
Finally, it was De Cesaris, still in tip-top physical shape as a result of the high-level wind-surfing he does, who finished just a second behind Patrese, having been elbowed down the order by a determined Derek Warwick earlier in the race.
Warwick then spent a number of laps trying to fight his way past a stubborn Jan Lammers before leaving the door open enough for De Cesaris to muscle back past him. They finished in that order and a spectacular Hans Stuck completed the top six. Stuck, renowned for his car control, needed every bit of it when he got out spectacularly out of shape passing fellow German Christian Danner.
"It was one of the best days in my whole life," beamed Stuck, who is still doing touring car races for BMW. "I've had an absolute blast and I just want more!"
"My car was quick enough for third," Warwick reckoned, "but I messed up in qualifying. It was pretty bunched up at the start and I wondered what was going on up front. I was always in traffic, I was stuck behind Andrea, got by him on the straight and then I was held up by Jan and the next thing I know Andrea is coming past me and I had to leave a gap. I was hoping that Andrea and Riccardo would take each other off, but it didn't quite happen!"
Danner finished seventh, ahead of Eddie Cheever, Lammers, who was in tyre trouble by the end, Eliseo Salazar and Frenchmen Patrick Tambay and Rene Arnoux.
Jacques Laffite failed to finish after mechanical gremlins while Stefan Johannson spun off on the third lap. The Swede didn't hit anything but brought out the Safety Car while his car was recovered.
Pos Driver Time 1. Mansell 50:55.154 2. Fittipaldi + 0.408 3. Patrese + 20.662 4. De Cesaris + 21.700 5. Warwick + 21.853 6. Stuck + 23.201 7. Danner + 24.118 8. Cheever + 32.205 9. Lammers + 32.778 10. Salazar + 43.419 11. Tambay +1:11.584 12. Arnoux +1:12.736 13. Laffite + 17 laps 14. Johansson + 28 laps