“Staying on Track” is Nigel Mansell’s third autobiography, and the second since the 1992 world champion took his final grand prix start in 1995.
His last book appeared soon after he stepped down from McLaren. Two decades later, does Mansell’s latest book add enough to make it a must read?
Not entirely, though it’s not without interest. Chiefly because, unlike the previous two titles, this one has been penned by the man himself: “The People’s Champion” (1995) was written by James Allen and Driven to Win (1988) by Derick Allsop. The text has an authentic ‘Mansell voice’.
Some aspects of Mansell’s early life and career come through more vividly, particularly his affection for Colin Chapman, the Lotus boss who died in 1982 after giving Mansell his break in the sport. Mansell also writes frankly about the bullying he suffered as a child – he is now a patron of the charity UK Youth.
In many other respects it’s hard to distinguish this from “The People’s Champion”. Familiar anecdotes are repeated with similar phrasing, sometimes in lesser detail.
Written in a strongly positive tone, Mansell’s new account has little time for those who offered criticism. There are repeated references to him getting a ‘hammering from the press’ only to ‘bounce back’ later on.
Others are ignored entirely, the most striking example of which is Peter Warr. The successor to Chapman at Lotus Warr gave the infamously flawed assessment that Mansell would “never win a race as long as I have a hole in my arse”. The following year Mansell scored the first of his 31 victories – a record for a British driver until Lewis Hamilton came along.
Warr’s view of Mansell never changed, as his full-throated criticism of Mansell in his posthumous 2012 memoir made plain. “Tensions surfaced with certain individuals in the team management” is Mansell’s response – not exactly the “compelling and frank memoir” advertised on its sleeve.
Other significant figures in his past also receive only fleeting attention. Tiff Needell gets the no-name treatment for his role in a 1993 crash at Donington Park. David Phipps, who championed his move to Lotus, appears once. Adrian Newey, who designed Mansell’s devastating, championship-winning Williams-Renault FW14B, appears just three times – one of which is to cite a quote of his from a book about Williams that Mansell would have won the title Hill lost in 1995.
The final third of the book covers Mansell’s life post-1995 and his views on modern Formula One racing. This provides some of the most interesting and freshest material in its pages, particularly on his recuperation from a heavy crash at Le Mans in 2010 by learning to perform magic.
It’s been a good year for autobiographies. Former FIA president Max Mosley and ex-Red Bull racer Mark Webber have lifted the lids on their respective world. Naturally, both have presented their version of events. But with Mansell’s book it’s hard to avoid the impression rather more has been left unsaid.
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Staying on Track: The Autobiography – Nigel Mansell
Author: Nigel Mansell
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
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10 comments on ““Nigel Mansell: Staying on Track” reviewed”
6th December 2015, 13:31
I got the first book and it’s the inimitable Mansell mix of self-aggrandisement and complaining. I suspect Keith is being quite generous with this lukewarm review. I won’t be spending £20 to find out, though I’m sorry to read that Nige was bullied as a child, and glad he’s put that out there to help others.
6th December 2015, 22:41
Um, what did I just read?
7th December 2015, 9:53
Mark Thomson (@melthom)
7th December 2015, 1:09
Honestly, are there any books in this genre worth reading?
Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)
7th December 2015, 8:28
8th December 2015, 2:47
How come Shunt hasn’t been reviewed?
Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)
8th December 2015, 8:29
I wasn’t able to get hold of a copy in good time.
7th December 2015, 12:45
£6 at The Works, already!!
16th December 2015, 16:06
That’s putting it mildly. I was really uncomfortable reading Warr’s critique of the moustachioed Brummie. I’m by no means Mansell’s greatest fan, but he certainly didn’t deserve Warr’s scathing review of how utterly appalling Mansell was in every single way that went on for page after page after page.
13th July 2016, 14:29
I am not one who really likes to criticise, but I have been reading a lot of F1 books recently and I have to say this is by far the worst one I have ever read. Mansell spends the whole book talking himself up and leaves out anything that could possibly give the slightest hint that he wasn’t the “best British driver since Jim Clark” (which he mentions an annoying number of times). I was looking for a book that scratched beneath the surface and gave new insight into a great era of F1 and I have to say this offered nothing at all. I felt cheated and I grew more and more frustrated as I flicked through the pages.
The best description I can give of it is that it is a canter through the highlights of Mansell’s career. The worst description I can give of it, which is the one I want to give, wouldn’t make it past the mods…
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