Australian Grand Prix 1986
Adelaide — 26 October 1986
Collecting his first Grand Prix win, after many frustrating failures, at the 1985 European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, Nigel Mansell was on the verge of the World Championship the next season. Winning in 1986 at Spa-Francorchamps, Estoril, Montréal and Le Castellet — together with the British GP, taking that race in Nelson Piquet’s spare car after Frank Williams refused to impose team orders for Mansell to give way — Mansell approached the season’s finale at Adelaide leading Alain Prost by six points and Piquet by seven. All he had to do to win the World Championship was to keep going round and round the agreeable contours of the Australian street circuit, making sure he didn’t hit the walls.
Putting his Williams-Honda turbo on pole, Mansell took the lead at the green light and settled into 4th place, allowing the race to find its pattern. Prost pitted with a puncture and Mansell passed Senna and Piquet for 2nd place, 25s behind Keke Rosberg’s McLaren. Then Rosberg’s right rear tire failed, and on lap 64 of 82, as the Goodyear technicians tried feverishly to inform the other Goodyear teams (including Williams), Mansell powered down the long High Street straight at 180 mph on full throttle when his own left rear tire exploded, flinging up a fountain of yellow, molten sparks as his car bucked from side to side in a frenzy. With fantastic agility, Mansell got the Williams under control and ebbed to a stop up the escape road — safe. He held his arms aloft in the cockpit, a motion of great despair and grief, as the World Championship slipped away. Prost went by to win the title, and only later did Mansell learn that if he had crashed into the wall on the straight, the race would have been red-flagged and he would have been World Champion. “Oh my God” was all he could say when told how close he had really come. Classifications.