Nigel Mansell: “I loved the skid plates and the sparks”
In the 1980s, Formula 1 driver aids weren’t a topic of conversation. They had yet to be invented – unless you were Nigel Mansell that is.
The glorious sights of the first few laps with fuel-heavy F1 cars was the best fireworks show on earth, titanium skid plates doing their best, and spectacularly enhancing the visuals of the on-track action. It also showed just how low the cars were running.
So, how was that a ‘driver aid’ in Nigel Mansell’s eyes?
“I loved the skid plates, and the sparks,” he says. “It was such a distraction to anyone following you.” That’s how it became a weapon in Mansell’s armour…
“In free practice I would search out bumps that were slightly offline that I could use in the race if someone was right behind me. The lines wouldn’t slow me, but I knew would give a big shower of sparks to the guy behind, and hopefully pock-mark their visor too. They really did make burns on your visor.
“The best one was at Abbey Curve at Silverstone,” Mansell adds. “If anyone was close enough to get a run on me out of Club corner, I knew just where to place the car at Abbey to give them a face full. I loved it!”
Sadly for pyrotechnic fans, the titanium skid plates have been replaced with wooden ones. And while the smell of burnt timber is nice trackside, it doesn’t come across so well on TV.
Bring back the sparks!