Mansell wins inaugural race of Masters Series

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Briton Nigel Mansell became the first winner of a GP Masters Series race on Sunday.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:53 IST
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Briton Nigel Mansell became the first winner of a GP Masters Series race on Sunday, leading from start to finish to take the chequered flag at the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami in Johannesburg. Brazil's Emerson Fittipaldi had a terrific battle with Mansell, but finished less than half a second behind in second place. Italian Ricardo Patrese came third ahead of his compatriot Andrea de Cesaris. The Grand Prix Masters series got underway at the Kyalami race track in Johannesburg on Sunday, with 14 Formula One veterans making a return to international racing. Mansell started the South African Grand Prix from pole position after setting the fastest time in Saturday's qualifying session. Emerson Fittipaldi joined Mansell at the front of the field for the rolling start and the two former F1 world champions maintained their positions around the first corner of the 30-lap race. Stefan Johannson spun off the track on lap three and the Swede made a minor piece of motor racing history, becoming the first driver to crash out of a GP Masters race. Derek Warwick had climbed up from sixth on the grid to fourth, but Italy's Andrea de Cesaris passed him with eight laps to go and went on to finish one place ahead of the Briton in fourth. France's Jacques Laffite struggled with technical problems throughout the race and he collided with compatriot Rene Arnoux in the closing stages of the race. Laffite finally left the track for good, while Arnoux finished at the back of the field in 12th. Mansell's grip on the lead came under threat from Fittipaldi throughout the race. Fittipaldi's determination to pass increased as the race wore on and Mansell had to use all of his skill and experience to hold off the Brazilian in an exciting duel. The battle continued right up until the final lap, but Mansell won the first GP Masters race in a time of 50 minutes, 55.154 seconds, with Fittipaldi just 0.408 of a second behind in second place. Italian Riccardo Patrese held on to third place throughout the race and finished a further 20 seconds off the pace. For 1992 F1 champion Mansell, it was a testing return to the Kyalami circuit, where he enjoyed F1 wins in 1985 and 1992. (AP)