Nigel Mansell made huge waves 25 years ago when instead of staying to defend his F1 championship, he switched to IndyCar. In his debut race at Surfers Paradise Mansell won from pole, but how he’d go at the next race at Phoenix – his first event on an oval – was another matter.
He’d tested at the track before with no issues, but in practice he started to ramp up the pace. Despite his oval inexperience, he’d beaten the track record and was still pushing when he stepped just a fraction over the limit, slamming into the concrete wall backwards at over 180mph.
Mansell was airlifted to hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion, a bruised shoulder and a badly injured back. Ever the competitor he still wanted to race the next day, but was told by doctors that he couldn’t. Teammate Mario Andretti went on to win the race and take what would be his final victory.
Two weeks later he was back in action at Long Beach where, despite having to have pain-killing injections in his back, he finished third. He went on to win four more races that year (all on ovals) and win the title, becoming the first driver to hold the F1 and IndyCar championships at the same time.