13 April 1986
Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna crossed the finishing line in Jerez just 0.014 seconds apart.
The 1986 Spanish Grand Prix witnessed one of the closest finishes in F1 history.
Mansell came desperately close to scoring Williams’ first win since team founder Frank Williams had been dreadfully injured in a road accident. And the three points he missed out on would have made him champion at the end of the closely-fought 1986 season. Here’s the story of that celebrated race and its epic finish.
One month earlier, Frank Williams had suffered a dreadful accident which cast a shadow over his team. On March 8th, Williams were at Paul Ricard for the final test session before the season opened in Brazil. The new Williams-Honda FW11 was already proving competitive. Mansell and Nelson Piquet had put the car through its final paces, with Frank Williams keeping an eye on proceedings.
Satisfied with progress, Frank Williams set off on the 90 minute journey towards Cannes and Nice, with the team’s PR co-ordinator Peter Windsow in the passenger seat.
About 15 minutes into the journey in the hills near the village of Meounes-les-Montrieux, Williams lost control of the car. It ploughed nose-first into a field several feet below the road and landed upside-down. The left-front corner of the roof collapsed, trapping Williams underneath. Williams survived but suffered paralysis and was kept away from his team for months while he made a slow recovery.
In his absence the team pulled together. Mansell said: “We will close ranks. We have already put Plan B into operation, with Frank’s approval. The best thing we can do, and myself and Nelson Piquet, is get the success the team and especially Frank deserves.”
Rio de Janiero
At the season-opener at the Jacarepagua circuit in Brazil the teams had their first taste of racing under new fuel regulations, with the maximum permitted fuel load cut from 220 to 195 litres. This created an efficiency challenge which the Honda-powered Williams excelled at.
Piquet beat Senna’s Lotus-Renault, with 12 litres of fuel still left in the tank and still managed to shave a second off Alain Prost’s two-year-old lap record. Mansell’s race was much shorter and less successful – he collided with Senna on the first lap and was out.
In his autobiography he said: “On the first lap of the race in Rio I got a good start and thought I had done enough going down the straight to pass him down the inside into the fast left hander. I got alongside, my right front wheel level with his shoulder and began braking, but he suddenly came across and hit me. I braked hard to avoid an accident, but his left rear wheel hit my right front and sent me off the road into the Armco, tearing off my left front wheel.”
“We did not talk about it afterwards, but I learned an important lesson about racing against him that day. If I hadn’t backed off we would both have hit the Armco and it could have been a serious accident. As it was I came off worse and it would not happen again. His tactic was to intimidate and I refused to be intimidated.”
Three weeks later, the teams were in Jerez for the Spanish Grand Prix.
source: © f1fanatic.co.uk