No open-wheel drive for Davidson – but do Mansell and Le Mans beckon?

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarThursday, December 4th, 2008

 
 

Anthony Davidson appears to have accepted that his best chance of securing a future drive lies outside open-wheel racing – and is potentially moving on to sportscars.

The perennially-unlucky Davidson saw his latest F1 hopes dashed when Super Aguri collapsed, and was prevented from testing for the IRL’s Panther Racing by a cycling injury.

But now he may be on the verge of following another British driver who slipped through Formula One’s fingers, Allan McNish, into Le Mans series prototypes.

And it’s a development that could just possibly see him competing against former F1 world champion Nigel Mansell and his sons at one of the world’s most prestigious motorsports events.

Leo Mansell, 23, is considering a drive in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and, according to Yahoo Eurosport, he and his dad have been in Spain testing sports cars with manufacturer Ginetta.

That reportedly went so well that the prospect of a 24 Hours of Le Mans drive was raised.

Eurosport quotes the company’s managing director Richard Dean as saying: “From the moment [Nigel] strapped into the car he was unbelievable. You could tell he wasn’t there to cruise around.

“He was there to push and absolutely wrung the car’s neck in the first few laps. He was so impressive and you can tell why he was something special behind the wheel in F1.

“I asked him about sharing a car with his kids and he didn’t rule it out. I’m sure it’s something the Le Mans organisers would jump at, given the publicity it would generate.”

Mansell told Motorsport News earlier this year: “Le Mans is always a potential. We have had some overtures made to us – with my two sons and myself driving in the same team – and maybe one day that might come to fruition.”

An exciting prospect – not least because Mansell is the only driver in history to hold both the Formula One and CART championships at the same time, as well as winning the latter in his rookie season.

While he’s not quite in contention for the Triple Crown of Motorsport, never having won the Monaco Grand Prix or the Indy 500, and it’s fanciful to hope he could secure a Le Mans win at the age of 55, this is still tantalisingly close to being the stuff legends are made of.

And what of Anthony Davidson? Well, the former Honda and Super Aguri driver could mount a considerably more serious challenge, having tested for Peugeot with an eye on an in-house drive.

The team returned to Le Mans Series in 2007 after an absence of 14 years and took pole position, coming second in the race. In 2008 they were also runners-up to the currently dominant Audi and the former F1 pilot McNish.

This means that, if Davidson is under consideration for a works drive, he could enter the event with a potentially race-winning car. The 24 Hours event is a one-off but a good showing could open doors in several sportscar series for the Brit.

Peugeot team manager Serge Saulnier told Motorsport News: “He is under consideration for a role with us next year. He tested the car for us and we have some other drivers to test.

“We need to see how many cars we will enter at Sebring and Le Mans next year before we decide anything.

“He did well. The target of this test was more for him to get the feeling of the car. He’s now got a good idea of the car and the team, so he will know about us if we consider a collaboration.”

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