Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio
– 1992: Mansell dominates in the Transvaal
Formula One continued chasing the Krugerrand but this merely provoked international condemnation due to countries boycotting South African sporting events because of apartheid.
Apartheid – the state of being apart – was a system of racial segregation which was enforced in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. In 1990 President de Klerk began the process to end apartheid which culminated with the 1994 democratic general elections.
The 1985 race had been won by Nigel Mansell in his William Honda but the field lacked the two French constructors – Ligier and Renault – as they boycotted the race in line with the French governments stance on South African sporting fixtures. Balestre announced days after the race that Formula One would not return until apartheid was abolished.
Seven years had passed before the teams returned to the southern hemisphere to compete once again. In the intervening years the landscape of the circuit had changed but the years had not been so kind to the last winner of the South African race.
Nigel Mansell had suffered outrageous fortune with his tyre disintegrating in Adelaide in 1986 whilst in touching distance of the title. In 1987 – despite humbling Piquet – fortune was looking the other way as he suffered a back injury in Suzuka.
A sojourn at Ferrari in 1989 and 1990 endeared him forever to the Tifosi but also led to a dramatic retirement announcement at Silverstone – he was fed up with the politics of the Frenchman. ( Where have we heard that before? )
Williams convinced him to return and after a number of teething troubles in 1991 – including a gearbox failure as he waved to the Canadian crowd on the last lap – he arrived in South Africa fitter than ever and armed with the Williams FW14B.
Ignoring the fact that it was designed by Adrian Newey, the car was the most technically sophisticated on the grid featuring a semi-automatic gearbox, traction control and active suspension. The rest truly didn’t stand a chance.
Mansell’s commitment to this technology was staggering. He had had nightmares with previous incarnations of active suspension at Lotus and the 1987 Williams but he placed complete trust in the engineering behind this car.
He qualified 1.5 seconds ahead of his team-mate and went on to dominate the race setting a fastest lap which would have qualified him sixth on the grid!
Many blinkered journalists still resent his success and will suggest that he was lucky to be presented with the championship that year but that would be ignoring his commitment and fight over the years including the misfortune from the 1986 Australian Grand Prix. Perhaps most telling were the fans – they absolutely adored him.
My favourite story came from a qualifying session that season. Patrese after being shocked by the difference in times, walked up to Mansell and grabbed his crotch. With the threat of being punched he explained “Sorry Nigel, I just wanted to see how big your balls are!”