This is a special post from the Classic Car Show Sunday the 18th February 2018 at the London Excel Centre. A VIP was also there for the day collecting his “Icon Award”.
“Should you ever meet your heroes?”
That question has been asked many times and I suspect that there is a lot of various and wide responses, some good and some shattered dreams I expect. Whether it’s a TV star, music star, sportsman, author, radio personality or any celebrity, people will always dream of meeting somebody who inspires them, some of them may be historical figures and some present day. My answer to that question is answered below and a massive tick on my bucket list, which happens to be quite a small list. I’m not actually a lover of the term “Hero” as it sounds like a bit of a obessesion, so the term for me should be “Icon”, but for now we will stick with hero as that is the question.
The 1992 Formula 1 World Champion and Indy Car World Champion 1993, Grand Prix Masters Champion 1995:
I mentioned in the other posts a couple of clues to this post; apart from him sitting in the F1 car in the motor sport post, there was the “5” at the end of the post. Nigel’s Racing number over the years has been 5 where possible and it’s always been a red 5, in fact Nigel now tags his signature with “Red 5“. I started following Formula 1 in the mid eighties during my late teens and early twenties as Mansell arrived on the scene properly. There is so much that has been written about Nigel and his career too much to list here. So take a look on Wikipedia would answer a lot of questions and give you good insight to the man: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigel_Mansell
My own top 15 Nigel Mansell Facts:
- Nigel is the only man in history to hold both the Formula 1 World title ’92 and the Indy Car Title ’93 with the Newman Haas team, at the SAME time.
- Enzo Ferrari personally picked Nigel to drive for the Ferrari team in 1989/90 seasons. Nigel was the last driver to be given that honour before Enzo died.
- Mansell and his two sons Leo & Greg took part in the 2010 Le Mans race, the first time a Father and two sons had raced together.
- 1985 French GP Nigel broke the record for the highest speed crash at 200mph, giving himself concussion at the same time.
- Nigel has had a OBE & CBE titles from the Queen.
- Nigel’s first F1 race for Lotus was in 1980, he started the race with fuel leak that filled his cockpit. He later retired with 1st & 2nd degree burns to his buttocks.
- Last race of the season Melbourne Australia in 1986 Nigel suffered a tyre explosion that ended his chances of being the 1986 World Champion.
- Nigel won the 1992 F1 championship with five races to go, such was his dominance of that season.
- Nigel won his first ever race for Ferrari. It’s a known fact that the car was not expected to last more than a handful of laps, Nigel even booked a flight home before the end of the race. He managed to keep it going and bring the car home. The Italians nick named him “Il Leone” – The Lion, as a result of his determination.
- Nigel is the only man to put a hole in the Phoenix Raceway oval track after a collision at 174mph.
- Nigel has broken many bones including his back and his neck in 1977 during a race qualifying session. Doctors told him that he was perilously close to quadriplegia, he still discharged himself from hospital and started racing again a few weeks later. In fact he still races with the same neck brace he used after that crash where he was lucky to be alive.
- Nigel was a Special Constable on the Isle of Man for 11 years all through his racing career while he lived there until 1995.
- Nigel’s golf handicap was scratch and almost +1, his aim to play in the British Open.
- Nigel sold his Woodbury Park Hotel and Golf Club that he built up in Devon for approx £11m.
- Nigel’s son Greg was named after his God Father; Greg Norman the golfer and best friends with Nigel.
Enough of the facts on with the photos. On the entrance to the show Mansell’s 1986 car FW11 was on display. Mansell failed to win the Championship by just two points with only 19 laps to go. I remember that I was up at stupid o’clock in the morning to watch the race live from Australia, and was in shock and mortified when I saw that rear tyre explode.
Probably nothing like the pain Nigel felt losing the championship. This is that very car and same chassis from that very race.
The show was to have Nigel drive a car down the roadway. His first drive was a beautiful black open top E-type Jaguar. I was a little late getting to the barriers, but being 6’4″ does have its advantages sometimes.
A little later in the day Nigel was to again drive down the road, but this time in a Formula 1 car which just happened to be Michael Schumacher’s old car during the time he was at the Benetton team, which was also on tmy previous motor sport post.
Nigel was allowed to “burn some rubber” and was the only person that day allowed to do so.
On his return trip back he did a donut or two and parked up where he was besieged by media to receive the 2018 Icon award. At this time I was on the bridge over the road and had to zoom in to try to get a picture, so they are little grainy, sorry.
I borrowed this picture from the Excel Centre’s own web page.
Mansell’s career started with Formula Ford where he won the championship in 1977 in this car, he won 33 of the 42 races that season. To fund his racing and dreams of getting his break into Formula 1, he sold his house and all his personal possessions to fund that dream. Once Nigel was in Formula 1 it eventually took him twelve years to realise that dream.
Mansell was snatched up by the late great Colin Chapman in 1980 as a test driver for his Lotus team to start with. Nigel got his break in 1980 in the Lotus 81B here. See also point six of my facts above.
The other famous car that was there for the Nigel Mansell Tribute was the FW14B. This was the car that won the World Championship in 1992. I was at two races that season; British Grand Prix where he won and the German Grand Prix two weeks later where he won again with Ayrton Senna second and Michael Schumacher third. That was my dream podium right there.
A previous revision of this car was also featured in one of the most famous F1 photo opportunities taken. In 1991 Mansell gave a lift the legendary Ayrton Senna a lift back to the pits after his car broke down during the British Grand Prix. Much to the disgust of the marshalls who tried to pull Ayrton from the car. I was at that at that race.
After I had drooled over these cars again Nigel was scheduled to give a couple of question and answer sessions. I got to the stage area a little later than I anticipated due to the amount of people heading in that direction, as a result I had to stand at the back of the crowds. I had to zoom in to the max so a little grainy, but I think you get the idea.
There was a great atmosphere during the talk and Nigel had the audience in fits of laughter with some of his stories. After the allotted time had over ran he sat at a table in order to do an autograph session. The queue for the table was long, as I was standing at the back my plan of action was the direct route to the line. My wife on the other hand-made a tactical dash around people and got their way before I did and was standing in the middle of the line with a daft grin on her face, what a great result. perhaps we may get there before he has to go. Very well-played that girl for getting the spot. 🙂
During the wait for our turn I watched as Nigel shook hands with everybody in front of him and signed everything they gave to him. He took selfies with the children and his older fans. Never once did he complain or refuse having to keep getting out of his chair walk around the table for a picture and back again. I had taken my 1992 Grand Prix race programme with me and my Special Edition Auto Sport magazine dedicated to Nigel Mansell the F1 World Champion 1992.
Now it was my turn, my throat was getting dry and I was determined not to make a fool of myself. I gave my ever patient wife the phone to take pictures. Instructions were simple, just keep taking the pictures. I walked to the table and handed my 1992 race programme to Nigel and he shook my hand and thanked me for coming!
I proceeded to explain that I was at that race. “That was an amazing day, but I have to apologise to you; I was one of the mad nutters that invaded the track after you had won, I’m sorry.” Nigel replied with a chuckle and “So you was one of those were you!” “Yes, but I’m glad I did!” We laughed. Nigel had refered to the track invasion of the fans in a later press interview after the race, it wasn’t good to be honest and a bit dangerous, but “Mansell Mania” had taken over.
I thanked Nigel for his time and we shook hands again. My wonderful wife then gave Nigel my other magazine and he signed that for her (well me actually) too. I took over the phone camera and took lots of pics of their meeting. We both said our thanks again to Nigel and we left the table for the next fans. Unfortunately my wife has vetoed the photo’s of her at the table with Nigel. That decision I have to respect, but this was one of the only pics without her in it that I could post.
I walked away with some serious stupid grin and some disbelief; I had just met my sporting Icon (hero) at long last and it had not sunk in yet.
These were the items Nigel signed for me, he even thought about where to sign the covers.
Now I feel that I can answer the question I raised above; “Should you meet your hero?”
If it’s Nigel Mansell, then that is big “Yes“.
He was gracious and polite all the time which was everything and a lot more than I had hoped for. That was a huge tick completed of my bucket list. It was all down to the wife who found out that Nigel would be there and could be signing autographs, so it was worth a shot for me. We had a sit down and a drink to get over what had just happened. I still can’t get used to the fact he no longer has his famous moustache. We wandered around for the rest of the afternoon and took the photos for the other posts. I managed to catch up with Adam from Mustang Maniac who was around by the Mustang Owners Club stand ready to take his car back home again after the show. The last part of the As things were running late there was no autograph session. The queue had already formed in anticipation, unfortunately Nigel was ushered away even when he stopped to try to sign some more items his fans had brought in for him. None of that rushing away was his doing and he looked a little sad he couldn’t be there for his fans.
Nigel has always been an inspiration to me for his never give up attitude and sheer determination to get to his ultimate goal. He has and still remains one of the nicest guys in Formula 1.
What an amazing day, one that I will never forget.
As for that track invasion in 1992 that I apologised for; well I was on my way to join these fellow nutters and lucky guys who got there a little before me, but at least I was there on that famous day.