Nigel Mansell had been written off many times before his ill-starred return to grand prix racing with McLaren in 1995. But this time around, his glorious, often controversial, Formula One career had come to an end just two races into the season when he severed ties with the Woking-based team.
Too big, too slow and too old to be offered another top drive, Mansell eventually made his return to racing in the 1998 British Touring Car Championship, behind the wheel of a Ford Mondeo for three rounds.
His first race at Donington Park was a complete disaster as ‘Red 55’ (number five had been taken by James Thompson) retired three laps into the sprint race and, as a result, would start the second event way back in 19th position on the grid.
But, as luck would have it, the feature race was held in atrocious weather conditions where the former F1 world champion came into his own. ‘Our Nige’ was at the centre of an enthralling five-way fight for the race lead and, even though he didn’t win, the race is considered by many tin-top fans as one of the greatest in touring car history.
Further guest appearances in Ford’s Mondeo would come at Brands Hatch and the season finale at Silverstone, but with alas, he couldn’t replicate his impressive wet-weather performance at Donington.
Having participated in three of the 13 rounds, Mansell finished 18th out of the 21 in the drivers’ championship, showing that F1 star quality doesn’t guarantee touring car success.