BTCC: Donington Park rounds 11 & 12 story

Donington Park - Rounds 11 & 12 Castle Donington, Derbyshire UK Mansell Magic Returns As Mondeo Fights Back At Donington Nigel Mansell came back to British racing for two of the best races of the 1998 Auto...

Donington Park - Rounds 11 & 12 Castle Donington, Derbyshire UK Mansell Magic Returns As Mondeo Fights Back At Donington Nigel Mansell came back to British racing for two of the best races of the 1998 Auto Trader BTCC season and proved he still possesses that special breed of true racing talent. On a rain soaked qualifying day at Donington Park circuit, the double World Champion had been right on the pace in his Ford Mondeo, taking third place on the grid for his first race in four and a half years, in front of thousands of dedicated fans and millions more following the action on live television. The race started as the rain fell, but was over too soon for Mansell's legions of followers, as a self-confessed lack of experience of the front-wheel drive formula led him to lock his wheels under braking at Coppice Corner, sending him into the tyre wall at nearly 100kph on lap four. Ford Mondeo Racing's regular driver, Will Hoy, was having a much better race, using all his BTCC experience to extract maximum benefit from the Mondeo's dominant wet weather performance as the rain came. The Londoner stormed from eighth place on the grid to a podium position, which he kept through two safety car appearances to the chequered flag, adding to his and the team's points tally and trophy collection. "We've made big steps forward in the wet and dry now, but we know the car's still very good in the wet", said Hoy afterwards. "We knew we stood a good chance in this race and, to be honest, I was disappointed not to qualify higher, but it's a credit to the team the Mondeo has come on so far." It was in the time between the two races the Ford Mondeo Racing team really came into their own, replacing the entire front end of Mansell's heavily damaged Mondeo in an unbelievable 90 minutes, to ready the car for race two. "The team did a truly fantastic job", said Mansell as he took his 19th place on the grid - the result of a missed opportunity in challenging qualifying conditions. "I can't believe it's the same car they brought back a couple of hours ago." The longer feature race however, gave Mansell the opportunity to show some of his formidable talent and driving courage as he found himself in the thick of the action, making up six places in his first ten laps. More of his trademark overtaking manoeuvres followed, before another very quick pitstop from the Ford Mondeo Racing Rapid Fit pit crew gave him the track position he needed to fully challenge the leaders. On fresh wet tyres, he swept through the field, overtaking all of his rivals to lead by lap 25, in only his second BTCC race - a lead he managed to hold on to until the closing laps of the race, only losing out on a podium place in the last corner of the race, as his tyre wear increased on a drying track. He crossed the line fourth but was penalised one place for overtaking under the Safety Car. Said Mansell: "It's been fun. I don't think I've ever been hit so many times on a race track before in my life! But it's good, clean racing and that's what the fans want. I lack experience obviously compared to the other guys out there, but I was learning lines from them and building my confidence as I went. The team has done an excellent job and I'm very pleased to see Will up there - we've managed to do a lot of work with the car in recent weeks. All in all, it's been a terrific weekend and I've given the fans what I promised - a race finish. It was a lot of fun." Meanwhile, Will Hoy saw his fortunes turn, as he exited the race on lap five at Macleans Corner, the result of a punctured tyre. "I'm gutted about that", was Hoy's response, after having to watch from the tyre wall as the race unfolded. "I got hit at Redgate and saw some smoke, but the tyre just disintegrated at the entry to Macleans, so I had nowhere to go. I'm sure I could have got another podium, maybe even a win if I'd have kept going." Ford Mondeo Racing will be back in action at Croft (North Yorkshire) on June 27/28, with drivers Will Hoy and Craig Baird behind the wheel.

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