Mansell Brothers End Racing Season On A High Note
by Carl Wagenfohr
Photo by Carl Wagenfohr
BRASELTON, GA – Leo and Greg Mansell, part-time Clearwater area residents and sons of 1992 Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell, ended their 2008 Formula Atlantic campaigns on October 3rd at Road Atlanta, producing season-best results in the process.
Greg earned the best result of his Atlantic career with a fifth-place run, eclipsing a previous best of seventh at New Jersey Motorsports Park last month. It was also Greg's fourth straight top-10 result and allowed him to move into the top 10 in the final championship standings.
Leo matched his career-best Atlantic finish with an 11th-place result. Leo had finished 11th in Round 2 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca earlier this year.
The Mansells had been drawn to the North American Formula Atlantic series from British Formula 3 to gain experience with higher-power, higher downforce race cars, better preparing them to take the next step into a top-tier open wheel racing series such as Champ Car, Indy Racing League (IRL) or Formula One.
But before the season had begun, Formula Atlantic became a victim of the 'merger' of the Champ Car series and IRL. The Indy Lights series filled the role of young driver development for the combined series, running as a support race at IRL events. Having served as a support series for Champ Car last year, Atlantics were set adrift without a sanctioning body.
Had it not been for the swift action of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), the 35-year old Atlantic series may have met its demise. ALMS agreed to become the sanctioning body for the Atlantics this year, running them as a support race at many ALMS events.
The 'merger' of Champ Car and IRL also victimized Walker Racing, the team for which Leo and Greg were to drive. Participants in the Champ Car series in 2007, Walker were preparing to enter the IRL, but lost their main sponsor, Aussie Vinyards. Walker's IRL participation never materialized, and layoffs of experienced race engineers followed.
Walker continued on with their 2008 Atlantics program, but with the team a shadow of its former self, Greg and Leo Mansell were unable to mount an effective challenge for the championship.
'Results-wise, it's been a disappointing year; we wanted to be a lot more competitive than we were,' Greg said. But despite the disappointments, Greg felt his Atlantics experience was valuable. “From the point of view of driving quick cars, really challenging tracks and learning all I need to learn to have a future in this sport, it has been very good,' he said, “We've crammed five years of experience into one year.'
Leo also valued his 2008 Atlantics ride. 'I think we've gained a lot of experience. The tracks we've been to, learning new cars with a lot more downforce and power – in terms of growing as a driver, it's been a great result,' he said.
Leo and Greg have made no decisions on where they will drive next year. Although neither ruled out a return to Atlantics, the uncertainty of that series continuing combined with their interest in further developing their careers will likely see Leo and Greg return to Europe.
While both racers insist that all options are on the table for next year, Greg is eying the European GP2 or Renault World Series, with Formula One as his ultimate aim. Leo, having enjoyed a Le Mans Prototype (LMP) test earlier this year, may end up in sports cars; 'I'd love to get into an LMP car,' he said.
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