One of the biggest names to cross from F1 to CART was Nigel Mansell – who did so after winning the 1992 F1 championship and claimed the Champ Car title at his first attempt.
He wasn’t the only F1 champion to try his hand at CART – Alan Jones did as well, though only for one races. As did two holders of some of F1’s more unusual records…
Johansson spent a lot of time with back-of-the grid teams like Spirit and Tyrrell before getting a break with Ferrari in 1985. He came close to winning at San Marino that year before he ran out of fuel. Unfortunately victory eluded him throughout his F1 career and he retired having finished second four times without having won a race – a record.
He left Ferrari for McLaren in 1987 but was only there for one year as the team waited for Ayrton Senna. He ended up at Ligier the following year where he didn’t score a point all year, but somehow got Onyx onto the podium at Estoril in 1989. He left the team two races into 1990 and the following year made six appearances for AGS, qualifying once.
In 1992 he joined Bettenhausen in Champ Car for what turned out to be five seasons in the series. He never won a race, his best finish being third which he managed on, you guessed it, four occasions…
After racing for Embassy and Surtees in 1975 and 1976 Jones got his break in unfortunate circumstances in 1977, replacing the late Tom Pryce at Shadow. He took the team to victory at Austria before moving on to Williams.
Jones spearheaded the team’s drive to the front of the field and was the driver to beat in the second half on 1979. Winning four times, he would have been a championship contender but for the unusual scoring system being used at the time. The following year he was champion, giving Williams its first drivers’ title.
But he fell out spectacularly with team mate Carlos Reutemann in 1981 and stormed out of Formula 1 at the end of the season. Two ill-starred attempts at a comeback in 1983 *with Arrows) and 1985-6 (with Haas-Lola) hinted that he’d retire too hastily. It was in 1985 that he made his only Champ Car start for Newman-Haas racing, finishing third at Road America.
Read more about Alan Jones: Alan Jones biography
Keegan drove a Hesketh in 1977 but crashed out of six of his 12 starts. He later drove a Surtees, Williams and March but often failed to qualify. After leaving F1 in 1982 he made four appearances in Champ Car in 1985, then failed to qualify for the 1986 Indianapolis 500. Six years later he made two starts in the junior Indy Lights series.
Lammers raced in F1 from 1979-82 for Shadow, ATS and Theodore, then surprisingly returned to the series in 1992 after a record gap of 10 years spanning 162 races. But the March he drove in 1992 was no more competitive than his earlier cars had been and he left F1 having never scored a point.
In his 10 Champ Car starts between 1985 and 1986 he managed a best of fifth. He went on to enjoy much success in sports car racing.
Lavaggi was just as hopeless in Champ Car as he was in F1. He qualified on two of four attempts in CART in 1994, and in F1 registered three DNQs in ten attempts for Pacific (1995) and Minardi (1996). On the latter occasion he replaced Giancarlo Fisichella in the team purely because of the funding Lavaggi brought with him.
JJ Lehto’s promising F1 career was compromised by the injury he sustained in practice before the 1994 season that were then aggravated in the start line crash at the beginning of the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Prior to that the Finn had driven for Onya, Scuderia Italia and then Sauber in their debut season in 1993. He raced for Hogan in Champ Car for one season in 1998 before going on to win the American Le Mans Series in 2004 and the Le Mans 24 Hours the following year.
The cause of Magnussen’s failure to shine in his brief F1 career after showing much promise in his junior years has been debated at length on F1 Fanatic recently. After one start for McLaren in 1995, then a season and a half with Stewart, Magnussen was left out in the cold.
He made 11 Champ Car starts in 1996 and 1999, scoring a best finish of seventh at Vancouver in his second season.
Nigel Mansell’s switch from Formula 1 to Champ Car in 1993 was enormous news at the time and brought the American series to a new level of international attention.
After 13 years in Formula 1 and having been championship runner-up three times, Mansell finally cracked the title in 1992 with a dominating performance in the Williams-Renault FW14B. But he and Frank Williams failed to reach terms on a contract extension for 1993 as Mansell felt slighted by the discovery that Alain Prost was to join the team.
Mansell instead threw his lot in with Newman-Haas in CART and became an overnight sensation by winning first time out in Surfers’ Paradise. Then, in typical Mansell fashion, he had a huge crash in Pheonix, injuring his back. He quickly returned and won his third oval race, at Milwaukee, and went on to take the title.
The following year the Newman-Haas was distinctly less competitive and Mansell seized the opportunity to return to Formula 1 at Bernie Ecclestone’s instigation after the death of Ayrton Senna robbed F1 of its biggest name. Mansell won the season finale at Adelaide but quit after just two races in an embarrassing move to McLaren.
However, he is the only driver ever to have held both the Formula One and CART titles simultaneously.
Read more about Nigel Mansell: Nigel Mansell biography
- Alonso studying Montoya, “one of the best drivers”, before Indy debut
- Alonso says his Indy bid is about “growing up as a driver”
- IndyCar drivers “shocked and excited” by Alonso’s arrival
- IndyCar “thrilled” by Alonso arrival and return of McLaren
- Alonso will miss the Monaco Grand Prix to race in the Indianapolis 500