August 16 marked the end of a long wait for Nigel Mansell. Some 12 years after he made his F1 debut, and almost six since a dramatic tyre explosion robbed him of what looked certain to be a first World Championship title, he finally made sure of motor racing’s most coveted crown.
Mansell’s efforts in recent years have been good news for British motor racing. Win or lose, he has ensured that the sport has made unprecedented headlines in the national media. Hopefully, his accession to the World Championship will give the industry further impetus; the success of Mansell and the consistently high level of performance from Martin Brundle and Johnny Herbert should not be allowed to obscure the fact that British motor racing still requires substantial financial support from grass roots upwards if the present momentum is to be maintained.
Mansell is Britain’s first champion for 16 years, and our seventh overall. (Between them, Britain’s seven F1 champions have won 11 titles.) There is a wealth of home-spun talent capable of following in his footsteps, but in this day and age determination on a Mansell scale may not be enough to get them through the ranks. If we want to fête another British champion before 2008, we must not allow the present euphoria to make us complacent. Rather, now is the time to invest in burgeoning talents. No organisation with even half an idea about PR will have failed to notice the benefits of having a patch on Nigel Mansell’s overalls in recent months.
On the subject of championships, we would like to salute Renault for its part in the success of Mansell and the Williams team. Tantalisingly close to the crown with Alain Prost in 1983, the French giant has been waiting for an F1 championship title since before Mansell emerged as a serious contender. Although Williams-Renault has still to put the constructors’ title beyond its adversaries’ reach — though it looked to be no more than a formality as we closed for press — Renault’s response to once omnipotent Honda has been magnificent. It’s a point which has often been overlooked in recent outbreaks of nationalistic fervour. S A