Over two decades ago, Nigel Mansell made the jump across the pond to compete in CART, much to the chagrin of his Formula One peers. As the 1992 World Champion, Mansell startled the public and the establishment by unceremoniously deciding to leave the sport which brought him so much fame and success, citing politics and contract negotiations reaching an all-time low.
Moving to the States and competing in CART was considered haughty by many, who felt Mansell wouldn’t be able to learn the challenging ovals in time. Boy, did he show them wrong.
Mansell took to the ovals quickly, but his road racing prowess saw him snatch pole position at Long Beach, California. Few street circuits combine immensely long straights, heavy braking and tight, technical sections like Long Beach, and the lack of runoff make it particularly challenging, especially with cars as wide as the CART machines from the early nineties.
Mansell’s Newman-Hass Lola car occupies quite a lot of real estate with those massive rear tires, which it needed to harness the power from the 2.65-liter Ford XB engine. This turbocharged V8 chucked out as much as 900 horsepower, which would fling the Lola chassis down Long Beach’s front straight to speeds approaching 190 mph, only before being arrested by those massive brakes and tires.
Mansell’s display is typically showy as he spins the tires exiting most every corner, all the while using calm, measured inputs. After years of driving in F1, Mansell learned how to bide his time and get the most from his tires. Threading the needle, Mansell appears to drive through the walls at certain points, he’s so close. The fervor of the Englishman comes through in his narration of the lap, and his bravery leaves no doubt as to why the was called “The Lion.”