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Nigel Mansell

Nigel Mansell (born August 8, 1953) is a British former racing driver who won world championships in both Formula One (1992) and CART (1993).

Mansell was born in Upton-on-Severn, a small town in the English county of Worcestershire.

He had a fairly slow start to his racing career, using his own money to help work his way up the ranks. He was struggling for money by the time he reached Formula 3, but thanks to a relatively consistent 1979 season, his F3 manager and team owner of Lotus, Colin Chapman, gave him an opportunity to test drive for Lotus, one of the top racing teams in F1 at the time. Mansell's skill impressed Lotus enough to give him a pair of starts in F1 in 1980, and eventually gave him a ride for a full season the year after.

His four years as a full-time Lotus driver, however, were a struggle as the Lotus cars were unreliable and he managed a best finish of third place. After the death of Colin Chapman in 1982 relationships at Lotus became strained and Mansell left in 1984.

In 1985 Frank Williams snapped him up for a drive alongside Keke Rosberg at the Williams team. Mansell was given the now infamous "Red 5" car which he drove throughout his career(for Williams and Newman Hass) and which was brought to the publics attention mainly through commentator Murray Walker and his enthusiastic commentry for the BBC.

However 1985 appeared to be more of the same for Nigel, but he showed hope at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium with a second place and followed it up with his first victory in 72 starts at Brands Hatch in England. He followed it up with a second straight victory at Kyalami in South Africa. The victories at end of 1985 helped turned Mansell into a Formula 1 star.

He followed up 1985 with five wins in 1986, a season which is most known for his now famous tyre burst with 19 laps to go in the season finale in Australia, a race which Mansell, Alain Prost, and teammate Nelson Piquet were all capable of winning the world championship, Mansell ended the season runner-up.

Five more wins followed in 1987 but an incident during qualifying at Suzuka in Japan caused him to miss the last two races of the season and almost certainly cost him the championship, again he ended the season runner-up.

Nigel was quickly becoming a fan favourite, as the good-humoured Mansell with his down home manner reminded many people of the late Graham Hill, a two time champion with a similar rise up the F1 ranks in the 1960s. He was also popular for his aggressive (and fast) racing style. He also got a reputation in the F1 paddock for complaining about minor details and regularly felt that others were plotting against him.

In 1988 Williams lost the turbo power of Honda to Mclaren and had to make do with a normally aspirated Judd engine. A dismal 1988 season followed which crashed him back to earth as he only finished two races of the fourteen he appeared in, illness caused him to miss two more. However, not wanting to let his adoring fans down he somehow managed a magnificent 2nd place and the fastest lap at the British Grand Prix.

In 1989, Mansell became the last Ferrari driver to be personally selected by the late Enzo Ferrari. In Italy he became known as "il leone" ("the lion") by the tifosi (Ferrari fans) due to his fearless driving style. In his first apperance with the team he won at Brazil. The rest of 1989 was characterized by gearbox problems and a handful of disqualifications but finished fourth in the championship with help from a memorable second win at Hungary where after concentrating on the race set up of the car he won after starting only 12th on the grid.

After a tough 1990 with Ferrari where he had more reliability issues with the car (7 retirements) he returned to Williams in 1991.

His second stint with Williams was even better than the first. Back in the familiar 'Red 5' he won five races with them in 1991, most memorably in Spain after going wheel to wheel with Senna with only cm's to spare at over 200mph down the main straight. However an unreliable semi automatic gearbox meant he finished second in the championship behind Ayrton Senna.

1992 would be Mansell's finest season, as he started the year with five straight victories, and eventually won the drivers' championship by setting the then record for the most number of wins in one season (9) and highest number of pole positions (14).

Despite being world champion, he had a falling out with Williams over money and the prospect of Frenchman Alain Prost joining the Renault powered team, he consequently left to join the Newman/Hass CART team in 1993. At Surfers Paradise Australia he became the first "rookie" to take pole and win in his first race. He had a five-win season, and it was good enough to give him the championship. He became the only driver in history to hold both the Formula 1 World Championship and CART championship at the same time.

In an unreliable Newman Hass car he did less well in 1994. After the untimely death of Ayrton Senna he returned to Formula One with Williams replacing rookie David Coulthard for the French Grand Prix and the last three races of the season. Mansell won the final race in Australia out qualifying Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher in the process.

Mansell eventually ended up with McLaren in 1995 but frustrated with the cars handling characteristics, he chose to retire after just two races with them. He retired with 31 victories in F1, the third highest number at that time, behind Prost and Senna; Michael Schumacher's success has since made him fourth of all time.

Mansell made a brief return to racing in 1998 in the British Touring Car Series driving in a highly uncompetitive Ford Mondeo. However fans were treated to a last glimpse of Mansell at his very best at Donnington Park, as rain fell he went from last into the first corner to leading the race for several laps and finally finishing 5th.

He won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award twice, in 1986 and 1992, one of only three people to do so.