FORMER Formula One world champion Nigel Mansell swapped four wheels for two when he cycled through the region at the weekend.

Mansell is leading a 1,200- mile, 13-day ride across the country to raise money for UK Youth, a charity of which he is president.

UK Youth, which is celebrating its centenary year, supports thousands of projects and clubs across the country helping 750,000 children and teenagers.

Mansell took a detour from his route to visit a project in Darlington and be interviewed by teenagers Chris Sykes and Jay Burgess.

Although The Box, which will be based in The Northern Echo’s offices in Priestgate, Darlington, does not officially open until November, project leaders said that it was too good an opportunity to miss.

The multimedia project is run by Darlington Borough Council’s youth services team.

The new premises have been provided with help from The Northern Echo and its work appears on rE-view, part of the newspaper’s website.

Mansell said to his interviewers: “I know what it is like to fight for everything. It is an incredible thing that you are trying to achieve here.”

Chris said: “I’m delighted. It has been really good and he was very chatty, well-spoken and polite and answered everything we asked.”

Jay added: “I have loved him since the day I was born – it was the same year he was World Champion.”

They also spoke to his sons, Leo and Greg, and Swedish exprofessional cyclist Magnus Backstedt, who are taking part in the cycling challenge.

Their interview was recorded for a podcast and will be accompanied by videos and photographs on rE-view’s website.

Mansell, wearing the red number five on his gloves that were synonymous with his racing career, said he had chosen the cycling challenge to engage with youngsters.

He cycled into Darlington with local clubs and cyclists from Hummersknott School, who cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats last year.

He said: “I want to engage with everybody. Everyone can ride because basically it’s easy.

The youth of today needs to have interests and what better than this.

“It’s been fabulous to have local clubs joining up with us.”

Mansell rode from Hexham to Harrogate on Saturday, calling at Carlton Lodge Youth Centre, in Thirsk, as well as Darlington. Yesterday, he rode from Harrogate to Lincoln and is expected to finish tomorrow.