The final day of Autosport International has played host to multiple motorsport world champions, high-performance race and road cars and thrilling stunts.
Once again it was Nigel Mansell CBE who was the star of the show, the former Lotus, Williams, Ferrari F1 and IndyCar CART driver underlining just why he’s one of the most-loved British racers in history, drawing enormous crowds to the Autosport Stage.
Recalling fond memories from the 1992 season, in which he won the F1 World Championship, Mansell talked about his very special relationship with the Silverstone circuit. “The 1992 Silverstone Grand Prix weekend will always remain in my memory because of the fans. It was a fantastic time, camping in the centre of the circuit, having BBQs and playing cricket, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of British racing enthusiasts.”
Of the Williams-Renault FW14B, the car that took him to the championship, he said: “It was a phenomenal car. A very physical machine.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Mansell’s IndyCar CART championship win, which came about because Williams decided not to renew Mansell’s contract at the end of the 1992 season. “When one door closes another opens,” he explained. “And that was IndyCar in 1993. I had a real adventure in America with Paul Newman and Carl Haas. Compared to the FW14B, the Lola-Cosworth was basic but very, very fast. At races like the Michigan 500 you averaged 233mph and some of the circuits there were some of the most dangerous I ever raced on.”
He continued: “There’s a saying in Indycar: ‘There are two types of people. Those who have hit the wall and those who are going to.’ And I found that out at Phoenix, punching a 3ft hole in a concrete barrier.”
Asked what his best achievement has been, Mansell replied: “With the number of injuries I’ve sustained in my career and the number of drivers who are sadly no longer with us, I’m very proud that I’m still around. And to be able to give back to the industry which gave me so much.”
Other star names on the Autosport Stage were Gil de Ferran, who won the Champ Car Series in 2000 and 2001 and was the winner of the 2003 Indianapolis 500. In 2017, he coached Fernando Alonso when the McLaren-Honda driver decided to compete in the Indy 500.
“My job was not to teach him how to drive but to try and give him as much information as I could to speed up his adaption to the track,” de Ferran explained. “And he was up to speed pretty much immediately. Fernando is a complete racing driver. His attention to detail is enormous. He is good with the team and with controlling his own emotions.”
Ex-F1 driver Karun Chandhok talked about his role with Williams Heritage which sees the racer get behind the wheel of some of the most famous Williams racers of all time. “Williams Heritage re-builds restores and then sells some of its older racing cars to collectors from around the world,” Chandhok explained. “And I’m lucky enough to get to demonstrate them – and coach the new owners. Mansell’s FW14B was one car I always dreamt of driving. It is just an incredible machine.”
Over at the Performance Car Show, it’s a been a feast of the road and racing cars with Motor1.com’s stand proving a hit with the crowds, featuring 3,000bhp of high-performance machinery.
Its line-up has included the latest Porsche 911 GT3, now available with a manual gearbox, alongside the racing version.
There were UK debuts from the VW Golf GTI TCR – a 345bhp competition version of the road car – and the new, facelifted Ford Fiesta ST, which now packs a 197bhp three-cylinder turbocharged engine. The stand was completed by the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 – the fastest four-door saloon to ever lap the Nurburgring – Mission Motorsport’s Jaguar F-Type ‘Poppy Car’ and McLaren’s 570S GT4 race car.
In the main hall, visitors have been able to feast their eyes on a mouth-watering line-up of Ferrari competition cars, as part of a very special Ferrari centrepiece feature. The line-up includes the 2017 F1 car, the SF70H, to the 2004 championship-winning F2004, 2017 LMGTE Pro World Endurance Championship-winning AF Corse 488 GTE, FXX-K Evo and the 488 Challenge cars, all of which are available through Ferrari’s Corse Clienti programme.
Visitors of all ages can see a range of powerful machines and skilled drivers putting on a thrilling show of drifting, precision car control and nail-biting stunts in the Live Action Arena. Highlights have included NASCAR and Billy Monger, who along with the Mission Motorsport team and Terry Grant, has been performing a precision driving display in a fleet of specially-adapted Jaguar F-Types.