March 21 in Motorsports History: Nigel Mansell wins IndyCar debut

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Less than six months after winning the Formula One World Championship, Nigel Mansell began a new chapter in his racing career on this date in 1993.

At the age of 39, the Briton was an IndyCar rookie, making his debut for Newman/Haas Racing at CART’s season opener in Surfers Paradise, Australia.

Mansell’s anticipated debut drew more than 800 accredited media and a weekend attendance of 220,000. The whole world was watching, and the Briton did not disappoint.

Nigel Mansell celebrates winning in his IndyCar debut at Surfers Paradise. (Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images)

In qualifying, Mansell set a record-breaking lap to become the first driver in IndyCar history to win the pole position in his first race.

But Mansell did not fare well in his first rolling start, as he was quickly passed by the Penske cars of Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy. He fell back to fourth after being passed by Robby Gordon shortly after.

However, Mansell quickly became comfortable in his new car and made his way back to the front to win by 5 seconds over Fittipaldi. By doing so, he became the first driver to win in his IndyCar debut since Jim Clark at the 1966 Indianapolis 500.

Mansell went on to four victories in 1993, all on ovals. He clinched the series championship by winning the season’s penultimate race at Nazareth in September. For the next week, Mansell had the distinction of being both the defending Formula One and IndyCar champion at the same time.

Mansell returned to Newman/Haas again in 1994 but went winless. He also returned part time to F1 in 1994, running four races with Renault. and scoring his final victory in the Australian Grand Prix. In 1995, he ran two races with McLaren before retiring from open-wheel competition.

Also on this date:

1960: Three-time Formula One champion Ayrton Senna was born in Brazil. He won 41 races over 11 seasons in F1 before his death in a crash at the Grand Prix of San Marino in Imola, Italy.

1966: Kenny Brack, winner of the 1999 Indianapolis 500, was born in Sweden.

1999: Greg Moore won for the fifth and final time in his career, defeating Michael Andretti by 1.110 seconds at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Moore was killed later that year in a crash during CART’s season finale at California Speedway.

2015: The No. 5 Mustang Sampling team of Sebastien Bourdais, João Barbosa, and Christian Fittipaldi won the 63rd running of the 12 Hours of Sebring, finishing a full lap ahead of second place. 

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