The ex-mustachioed and erstwhile Formula 1 ace Nigel Mansell has a chat about his 10-year commitment to the UK Youth charity and why many of today’s racing drivers aren’t nearly as fit as they could be.
I’m still new to cycling, as I’ve only been riding for a year or so. The power-to-weight ratio still isn’t perfect, but I’m hopeful that eventually that will come down and I’ll become a far better rider. I did my first London to Paris in 2010, and I’m doing it again this year.
A few of the Formula 1 drivers from my era used to ride mountain bikes. Whereas road bikes seem to be becoming more popular with the current generation, as proven by Jenson Button and Mark Webber, who are both great advocates of cycling.
I’m very proud to be involved with the whole UK Youth project. The charity is over 100 years old, and I’m incredibly privileged to have been president for the last 10 years or so.
I’m astonished by what the cycling team, especially Magnus Backstedt, has managed to do in such a short time. We’ve won a few races, and coming fifth overall in the Tour Series is an awesome achievement too. Yes, it’s deliberate that we’re focusing on younger riders – to keep in with the ideas of the charity – but what is even more exciting is the how the UK Youth name is getting its message out there.
I’ve been associated with charities throughout my time as a racing driver and so I was never tempted to retire completely once my Formula 1 days ended in 1995. UK Youth makes such a big difference to so many people; it changes people’s lives by empowering them to make positive decisions. We reach over 750,000 young people each year. It’s staggering.
The Tour Series finale in London was my first ever visit to a ‘big’ cycling event. Obviously criteriums have parallels to motor racing; you’ve got the course, the fans and you’ve got the action. But I guess it’s not every day that races take place in Canary Wharf or Monaco!
People say modern racing drivers are fitter than ever before, but I’m not so sure. Yes, they have to race in humid climates like Malaysia and China, but the cars used in the 1980s and the early 1990s never had the driver aids and power steering that are now commonplace. The drivers of the past could quite easily have been physically stronger than today’s generation.
A few of the drivers I raced against have gone on to own teams or become well-known television pundits, but I don’t feel that I could do that full-time. Instead I feel a deep responsibility to the charity; I see that as my job now.