Motorsport

2 May, 2007 1:00am Jonathan Gill

Ex-world champion Our Nige is turning back the clock at the scene of some of his finest triumphs

This promises to be quite a weekend at Silverstone. Not only is Jaguar making its competitive comeback in the FIA GT race, but motorsport legend Nigel Mansell is also returning to the track in the same event.

The 1992 Formula One world champion is back behind the wheel of a Ferrari for the first time in 17 years, at the Northamptonshire scene of three of his greatest, and most emotional, grand prix victories.

He will be racing a 200mph 430 GT for Stewart Rodin’s Edinburgh-based Scuderia Ecosse squad in next Sunday’s two-hour Tourist Trophy showpiece, the second round of this year’s FIA GT Championship.

It will be Mansell’s first sportscar race, at the ripe old age of 53, and he’ll be sharing the driving duties with one of the team’s regular drivers, Andrew Kirkaldy or Chris Niarchos. Mansell, who won three grands prix for Ferrari during 1989 and 1990, explained: “Stewart runs a very good team and the cars are beautifully prepared. I hope to see everyone at Silverstone, as I think we are in for a great weekend of racing.”

Understandably, Rodin is equally thrilled to see such a megastar in one of his bright red cars. He said: “We are delighted that Nigel will be joining us at Silverstone. In terms of race victories, he is the most successful British F1 driver of all-time, which is an incredible achievement. For a team that is passionate about Ferrari, we are so happy that Nigel is joining us, and we will do everything we can to make sure that he has a successful weekend.”

Mansell has already tested the 450bhp 430 at Knockhill in Fife, and is confident of being competitive. He’s fully aware of the potential
pitfalls facing a high-profile star in such strange surroundings, too. “The Ferrari is fun to drive, but it remains to be seen how I will get on in a race situation, as ex-F1 drivers tend to go out with a target on their backs!” he admitted.

Whatever the final result when the dust finally settles on Sunday evening, FIA GT boss Stephane Ratel knows the presence of such a big name will have tremendous appeal.

“Nigel is a natural-born racer, and seeing him reunited with the Ferrari name at Silverstone will be an extremely special moment,” said Ratel. “He’s an incredible professional and an entertainer.”

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