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Wednesday, May 22, 2024


CRAIG Baird has described Formula 1 world champion Nigel Mansell as the bravest man he’s met.

In Part 1 of his V8 Sleuth Podcast powered by Repco episode, Baird discussed his period as British Touring Car Championship stablemates with Mansell amid a horror 1998 campaign for Ford.

Off the back of the 1997 AMP Bathurst 1000 which he and Paul Morris won in a BMW 320i before being disqualified, Baird snapped up an opportunity abroad – only to deal with a front-wheel-drive Mondeo that proved to be a handful.

To save face, as Baird put it, Ford parachuted Mansell in at his expense for the second visit of the year to Donington Park (and later Brands Hatch and Silverstone also).

That didn’t mean the Kiwi missed out on getting to know Mansell and observe an extreme self-belief that he also witnessed in nine-time Bathurst 1000 winner Peter Brock (who Baird co-drove with at the 2002 Great Race).

That trait was especially evident during a test day at Pembrey Circuit in Wales.

“I did a heap of testing with him and stuff. I’m not sure if he is just brave, and I would hate to call Nigel Mansell stupid, but he’s one or the other,” Baird recalled.

“The first test we did at Pembrey, I’m at the back of the pits and he’d promised me he could do the back kink flat. He goes, ‘it’s got to be flat’. He hated it with old tyres but he could drive it.

“He just had in his mind it was flat, so he decided to do it flat, and (1998 BTCC teammate) Will Hoy and I are standing there and watched a Mondeo go into two pieces.

“That was Nigel Mansell. He just had this thing and the self-belief, and Brock was no different; if he thought he could do something, you’re going to do it.

“If it didn’t come off, it’s not possible, no problem, we’ll reset.

“The only problem was, we were running out of chassis because I’d destroyed two of them, he’d destroyed one, so they were now piecing cars back together.

“He was a fantastic guy, the self-belief, the war stories he would tell you… he was a fun guy but the bravest man I’ve ever come across.”

In the episode Baird delves into various topics from his beginnings to the time he bumped into a young Mark Larkham in Argentina, his ultimate respect for Paul Radisich, whether he would ever race again, and of course that Bathurst victory and disqualification.

Baird nowadays is the Driving Standards Advisor for the Repco Supercars Championship.

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