Retired Formula 1 ace Nigel Mansell has won the first GP Masters race at Kyalami in spectacular style beating fellow legend Emerson Fittipaldi to the line by just 0.4 seconds…
The new series, which brings motor racing legends from down the years out of retirement, kicked off today in Kyalami. Nigel Mansell, Emerson Fittipaldi, Ricardo Patrese, Andrea de Cesaris and Rene Arnoux are just some of the champions and race winners from Formula 1’s past who competed with one another today over 30 laps of Kyalami in identical cars. The event even saw legendary race commentator Murray Walker return to the box for the BBC.
Searing heat beat down on the 70,000 sell-out crowd as the race got under way with Mansell starting first ahead of Fittipaldi and Ricardo Patrese. Mansell controled the pace for a few laps before he was forced to up it a notch when Fittipaldi attempted to pass him.
With minimal electronic aids and no traction control, the drivers powerslid their way around the course competing for position at every turn.
Stefan Johansson was forced to retire on lap 2 when he lost control and found himself in the gravel. The safety car was brought out for a few laps until his car was removed before returning to the pits allowing the race to go on.
A number of moves for position were made throughout the 30 laps giving fans some enthralling racing. Fittipaldi and Mansell battled it out for the entire grand prix before Emerson made two last ditched attempts to pass the Briton on the final lap almost running into the back of him.
“An amazing race and one which was a joy to drive! I remember a few years ago when Nigel came over to Indy Cars and the late great Senna told me to watch out for Nigel’s car control.” said Fittipaldi.
“Today I witnessed that first hand again and at times, I really thought he had crossed the limit but time and time again he managed to keep the car on the track – and get faster! He will make a mistake, I kept thinking and I tried to pass him on several occasions but there simply wasn’t enough braking zone. Nigel kept his foot glued to the throttle for 30-laps and I had little choice but to accept 2nd place today. Not one of us put a foot wrong out and on lap 23, we posted exactly the same time – 1m.37.069secs! In fact, the only thing I did wrong today was not finishing in 1st place! A truly banzai race in every sense and we are already excited at the prospect of what 2006 holds for this stunning new series.”
The pair finaly crossed the line with just 0.4 seconds between them but miles between them and the rest of the field.
“What a race!” said Mansell, “I started on pole and that was the critical factor today given how hard I was pushed by Emerson. He just didn’t give up and nor did I expect him to. I tried to break-away from him but he just kept his nose behind my car and on a couple of occasions made moves on the inside of corners!”
Unfortunately however Alan Jones, who had planned to take part, was unable to race due to cramps in his neck.
“The problem manifested itself after the first day and has gradually worsened to the extent that the pain is unbearable. I have given it my best shot this morning and wanted nothing more than to compete alongside these fantastic drivers today but the situation is simple untenable.” he said.