The Legendary Gladiators of Motorsport: Nigel Mansell
I was rumbling through a shoe box full of childhood memorabilia the other day and I came across my little book all about my motor racing hero Nigel Mansell. I read it to mind myself of what a legend he really was.
No sportsmen today can compare to this insane mustached gladiator who has been knocked out unconcious in accidents more times than a normal human being sleeps. His bravery on track gave him no fear to overtake anybody (only Montoya comes close at times of replicating this) and no fear of crashing. Every debut in a new racing series he had was greeted by either:
a) Catastrophic accident which causes neck-breaking and paralysis
b) Sitting in the cockpit whilst a pool of petrol gives 1st degree burns all over his back
Anything that moves faster than 30mph is dangerous.
...he said. So that’s why he always made sure that he was doing at least 130mph when he crashed into walls! His resilience was just amazing, always bouncing back (gently) from neck-injuries. I surely believe he must hold a record for the number of times he’s rolled a car over, or the record for the number of times he’s been thrown out of a car into a wooden fence. This amount of grit and determination throughout a long career where he sold his home a few times in order to buy a race car. His story is a one of a long struggle with many many trials along the way. He was always runner-up due to freak accidents: missing wheelnuts, rolls, etc. One time he had to get out of his car and push it (uphill) to the finish line, in sweltering heat in order to finish the race. He finally reached his goal in 1992 to become FIA F1 World Champion after 12 years in the sport. I was only 6 years old at the time, I can’t remember much apart from one race, Hockenheim (I think) where he was creaming the field effortlessly whilst I chanted his name repeatedly as the exciteable kid I was!
Literally dicing death, they were truly heroes in those days. He was so ‘normal’ in physique: fairly podgy, sported a moustache and old enough to get along with your parents in a PTA meeting (he won the championship aged 39, Alonso was 24 when he won it last year). Since retiring he’s done only low-key stuff, like touring cars and golf. But his recent comeback in GP Masters has conjured up the old fans’ enthusiasm with their ‘Mansell’-Union Jack flags. Come on Nige!