News from the Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship 20/3/98

NIGEL MANSELL TO CONTEST BTCC

Racing legend Nigel Mansell is to return the tracks, driving a Ford Mondeo in selected rounds of the 1998 Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship.

The 1992 World Champion - Britain's most successful Formula 1 driver with 31 Grand Prix victories - will contest six Auto Trader BTCC races for Ford Mondeo Racing as team-mate to regular drivers Will Hoy and Craig Baird.

Announcing his BTCC programme today (Fri), 43-year-old Mansell said: "Joining Ford Mondeo Racing to tackle the most competitive touring car championship in the world is an exciting challenge and one which I'm looking forward to immensely."

It will be the first time since 1993 that Mansell has raced in the UK. His last appearance here was also in a BTCC Ford Mondeo - he showed impressive speed at Donington Park in the TOCA Shoot-Out meeting before crashing.

Alan Gow, chief executive of BTCC organiser TOCA Ltd, welcomes Mansell's return: "We're looking forward to seeing him. Nigel is a great driver and a huge favourite with the British racegoer. He showed in 1993 that he approaches touring car racing with great enthusiasm and takes it extremely seriously. He'll certainly be competitive."

Ford Motor Company's director of European Motorsport, Martin Whitaker, said: "We are delighted to be able to announce this partnership. Nigel has extensive experience of developing and racing cars at the highest level of competition and we are confident this will be of great benefit to the Mondeo touring car programme."

Mansell added: "Ford has been with me since the start of my career, from my first race in Formula Ford, through my Formula 1 debut in a Lotus-Ford, to my IndyCar World Series win in a Ford-powered Lola. It's therefore appropriate I should be driving a Ford Mondeo in my return to racing in Britain."

Mansell made his Grand Prix debut in 1980, later switching from Lotus to Williams, with whom he won his first Grand Prix. After a spell with Ferrari he returned to Williams to win the 1992 World Championship. The following year he won the IndyCar title in the US. His last Grand Prix appearance was with the McLaren team in 1995.

-- BTCC official website www.btcc.co.uk