Tuesday August 21st, 2001
Former World Champion Nigel Mansell has brought the world's first two-seater Formula One car race to a smashing end. The Englishman, with British entrepreneur Jonathan Frost sitting in the back, slammed into the back of another Minardi driven by Spaniard Fernando Alonso on the penultimate lap.
Frost had paid $55,000 for his ride of a lifetime at the Monaco Grand Prix ball and he got rather more than he might have expected. Mansell's car flew up in the air, shattering the nose cone, spinning and damaging the rear suspension. A front wheel also flew off .
"One thing's for sure, you saw a real motor race there," commented 48-year-old Mansell after he and his passenger had emerged unscathed. "It was just one of those hiccups in motor racing.
"We just hit the back of the car in front, it was very unfortunate and very regrettable," added the Briton who won his 1992 world title with Williams and raced for the last time in Formula One in 1995. "I think we overtook whoever was in front in the air."
Mansell is developing a habit of crashing at Donington, having smashed a touring car into a concrete wall at the circuit.
Louise Goodman, the regular Grand Prix pitlane reporter for Britain's ITV television, was Alonso's passenger.
"We came out of the corner and the next thing I knew ... boom!," she said after being helped out of the car. Minardi team boss Paul Stoddart, with pop singer Kelis as his passenger, was later declared the winner of the race.
"Everybody's okay and it goes to prove how strong modern Formula One cars are. I echo Nigel in saying we will not be doing that again," said the Australian businessman.
The race involved five cars, with the others driven by Minardi's Brazilian racer Tarso Marques and Malaysian hopeful Alex Yoong. Marques, with Boyzone pop star Shane Lynch on board, retired early on with a blown engine.
Mansell had earlier treated his sons, 16-year-old Leo and 13-year-old Greg, to a drive around the Donington circuit.
"It was probably one of the most amazing experiences any father could have in their lives," he said. "Taking both your sons round and giving them an appreciation of what you've done in your life for the last 30 years is something that you can't replace. After two laps, they were totally, totally worn out."
A glance at the long queue of fans snaking across the car park as they waited for Mansell's autograph would have given them another insight into their father's enduring popularity. The race, with pitstops, also featured commentary by television's veteran Murray Walker. Mansell expressed his gratitude to his old friend, who is retiring in three races' time.
"You are absolutely brilliant," he said. "We will miss you and you will never be replaced."
Published at 16:36:34 GMT