Stoddart The moment of the crash photographed by G. Bibby AbacusAutosport / Gpix

Paul Stoddart won, while Mansell crashed

Formula Christmas

The new and old fans have one thing in common. We both love the Minardi two seaters, or how they are called today, that appear on the track before the start of a Grand Prix. Today the Two Seaters function as parade cars, driving around fancy people whom most of the time don’t have a connection with the sport. How different was this 21 years ago when the cars for the first time appeared on the tracks. There were even races held. Let’s take you back to that memorable day in August 2001, when Paul Stoddart won a F1 race!

From day one I’m intrigued by the two seaters from Minardi, and even the X3 (three seater) from Arrows. I don’t know what it is. Back in the days I even made a mod for F1 2002 that only contained two and three seaters in the game. The idea you can take place behind a driver in a F1 car. You can’t get closer to the sport as that.

In base the two seaters are the Tyrrell 026s which Paul Stoddart purchased in 1998. His original plans were to purchase the Tyrrell team more or less to keep the name. As well to have his own Formula One team. Sadly for him BAT had the same plans and they offered more money and outbid Stoddart. Luckily, for Paul, BAT only needed the rights to race next season. It meant that he purchased all the assets from Tyrrell.

As said, the Tyrrell 026 was and still is the base for the two seaters. What many don’t know or simply forgot that there was a time they were really racing these beautiful monsters. Let’s take you back to the very first race with two seaters. It is the 21st of August 2001 when the Thunder in the park 2001 on Donington is held. The Minardi team prepared five two seaters. Four of them would be with the regular livery, while one would be in Red.

The line up for the race  was as followed;

Paul StoddartKelis Rogers (Singer)1st
Nigel MansellJonathan Frost (Businessman)2nd
Fernando AlonsoLouise Goodman (ITV Reporter)3th
Alex YoongDes Kelly (Journalist)4th
Tarso MarquesShane Lynch (Boyzone)Retired

To be fair, this was marketing wise a great addition for the Minardi team. If you know the story of 2001, then you know it is a miracle what Paul Stoddart managed to do in a few weeks. The two seaters brought in extra money. Money the team really needed.

he Minardi team is preparing five two seaters on the grid  while Murray Walker and Tony Jardine were warming up the 4100+ crowd that came to Donington to attend the race. The drivers and their passengers take place in the cars and after a warm-up lap the five drivers are ready for a 12laps during spectacle. It would not be a show race. It would be a real race between five drivers who were eager to win this race! Especially Nige was ready to show he still had it in him! Against the rookies Alonso, Yoong and Marques.

Tarso Marques retired only in a few laps as his engine blew up. The same time Nigel Mansell went mad and overtook Paul Stoddart in the red car, taking the lead. A few laps later Stoddart is in third place when he Mansell and Alonso steer into the last corner. That’s the moment well everything goes wrong. While Alonso seems to slow down, Mansell goes in full throttle into the corner and hits Alonso’s rear tyres. It means he launches himself into the sky turns the car 180 degrees and goes backwards over the Finish as second. While Alonso manages to finish third.

However, it is Paul Stoddart himself who, while he went over the grass, finished the race as first. It meant that Paul Stoddart won a Formula One race. Give it more flair it is one of the few occasions a female won a F1 race. Kelis was Paul Stoddart his passenger. It seems they could not trick her!

There was one person who was next to the mayhem caused by Nigel Mansell and that is Gordon Bibby. I spoke with him on Twitter. He was one of the first that appeared on the tracks with a digital SLR system. When he was looking for a more dynamic place he moved to a different place. It seems it was the right move to do. A bunch of his photos are available on his WordPress page. It gives a good environment of a time and era that’s only 20years ago though a complete different atmosphere and time.