Britain's Nigel Mansell took 1st place today at the Losail International Raceway in Qatar at what many have described as the hottest race in living memory. The Doha desert heat produced almost unbearable conditions as a track temperature of 58 degrees was recorded at the start of the event. A cock-pit temperature of 77 degrees was recorded with the highest previously known to be 68 degrees!
Mansell, who started from pole, led the incident packed race from the beginning and recorded his second consecutive victory following his win at the inaugural round in South Africa. Germany ' s Christian Danner finished in second place and Belgian debutant Eric Van de Poele came home in 3rd. Eddie Cheever (USA) was fourth, Warwick (Britain) fifth and also making his GP Masters debut was Pierluigi Martini who finished in 6th.
The six fastest laps overall were split by a mere tenth of a second in a race that produced drama in the way of overtaking, safety cars, retirements and at times four cars running abreast down Losail ' s 1068m main straight. Out of the15 that started, 12 cars finished with De Cesaris (Italy), Salazar (Chile) and Stuck (Germany) retiring.
(1st) Nigel Mansell: " A brilliant result but an incredibly tough race out there today. It was a tactical race right from the very start and the pace was really quick out there. I was pleased with the set-up strategy we had adopted on the car because as you saw, I had problems going with turns one and two but the last four corners is what we specially set the car up for and that ' s what ultimately won me the race.
About three laps into the race, I suffered a seat installation problem which must have been caused by the high g-loadings but in the end, it came good. These guys were catching me down the main straight and as you saw, I was weaving around the place to avoid anyone getting a tow off me. The first re-start after the safety car was great as I caught everyone unaware and got a great head start. A fantastic weekend all round and my congratulations to everyone involved in staging a truly stunning event. Qatar has made us all feel extremely welcome and we very much look forward to racing here again in the near future. "
(2nd) Christian Danner: " It ' s great to finish 2nd behind Nigel but unfortunately, it could have been better today. Eddie (Cheever) who was in second place at the time seemed sound asleep when the safety car went back in and Nigel by that point had got a huge lead on the re-start. I saw it coming and knew exactly what Nigel was doing but there was nothing I could do. I did have a chance to maybe beat Nigel today but I never really got into a rhythm with my car. It took a few laps before the grip really kicked in and by then, we had a safety car period again. I am, however, very happy with what we have all achieved this weekend and second place will do me - this time. "
(3rd) Eric Van de Poele : " It ' s been nearly fifteen years since my last grand prix and to be on the podium again today was simply awesome! I can still hardly believe it. The race was certainly not short of action and there were so many battles going on up and down the pack but I was lucky as on each lap I found less and less cars in front of me. My race set-up was also the correct one as we put on more wing to compensate for understeer. This worked a treat and really played to my advantage on this super fast and enjoyable circuit. This track really has proved its worth this weekend and for sure more cars need to come racing here. We ' ll certainly be back I hope and in the meantime, my thanks to everyone at GP Masters for producing this amazing show. "
(4th) Eddie Cheever: " I was really in with a great chance today but it all went to pot after the first safety car with what has to be the worst green flag drop I have seen in 30 years of racing. During the safety car, I was really looking forward to making a charge towards the last ten laps but the green flag dropped way too early. Nigel put his foot down and got a massive advantage on me. I couldn ' t believe it! I don ' t blame Nigel for taking full advantage of what was clearly a shocking judgement call from the marshal. Nigel did what any driver would do and today he got away with it. The car felt really good and I made up a lot of places today to prepare myself for what would have been a serious charge towards the front but there you go. Happy I am not! "
(5th) Derek Warwick: " The car was fantastic today and had loads of grip from the start. It was clear that Nigel was having problems and we were all backed up behind him. Pierluigi then went on the inside of me at one of the corners but I kept the pressure up. He ran wide at the hairpin and I went up the inside and cut straight back but spun! From there it was simply flat out playing catch-up. I passed about four or five cars and got a good jump after the two safety car incidents. I kept up the fight and in the end managed to get my own back on Pierluigi. Fifth place is what came at the end of the day but had it not been for the spin, a podium position would have definitely been mine today. It ' s been a great weekend of racing and no doubt we ' ll look to settle some scores at Silverstone in a few weeks from now. "
(6th) Pierluigi Martini: " A great experience for me and one which I hope to re-create very soon with this superb GP Masters series. I was extremely happy in the car today and drove a really enjoyable and hard race. I remained close at all times to the front runners but was losing some speed down the main straight. I also made a mistake during the safety car period and lost position but in the bigger scheme of things, I am very happy to have finished 6th given that I never ever thought I would be racing grand prix cars with these guys again. Nobody appears to have lost any of the speed, competitiveness or tenacity from yester-year and that ' s what is so amazing. Thank you to everyone who has worked so tirelessly on my car this weekend and congratulations to GP Masters and QMMF for pulling off a historical event in this fabulous country. "
Silverstone 11-13th August 2006
Kyalami (South Africa) 12 November 2006
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