Thursday, February 24, 2011

Q&A With Pippa Mann

Less than a week before her first IZOD IndyCar Series test, Pippa Mann sat down to answer a few questions.....

16th And Georgetown: You've been hinting at making progress towards a 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series effort and then you just announced about a week and a half ago that you'll be testing with Conquest at Texas on the 28th.  So, what are your expectations?

Pippa Mann: Well, I don't really have any expectations for the test as odd as that sounds. I'm kind of hoping it's going to feel fairly similar to an Indy Lights car on an oval just a bit bigger and a bit heavier and a bit faster. I tend to drive by feel so if i can get the feel of it fairly quickly then just get down to work, hopefully I can do a good job for the team. That's the most important thing about the test, is I need to do a really good job for them. It's their (Conquest) main oval test as well for the year, so it's important on two-fold. It's important for me personally to try and do my thing and it's important for them as well.

16th&GT: Being your first IndyCar test, have you spoken to any current or former IndyCar drivers about what to expect when getting behind the wheel?

Pippa Mann: To be honest with you, not really. I'm just going to get on with it and do my own thing. That's kind of the way I work. I'm not afraid to ask for advise, if I wanted advise I could think of people I might ask. I worked with a really great guy last year called Mike Zimicki at some of the races, and I asked him what to expect because he's worked with me and to be honest I trust him more than most of the other guys out there. Never let your competition see your weaknesses. [Laughs]

16th&GT: What will it take to get you in IndyCar, whether it be just full-time, part-time, or just Indy? Do you still need to put some funding together, or do you just need to get a bit of time behind the wheel of a big car to prove your skills?

Pippa Mann: It's funding. I think it's the same for every driver out there at the moment. Even someone like PT (Paul Tracy) really struggles to find enough funding to put things together. One of the other team owners was quoted as saying 'it's unfortunately true, you can't run a team on chairty', so while the team owners want to have good drivers in the cars, they can't run their teams on charity. So, their working really hard to try and find money, we're working really hard to try and find money, and some team owners work harder than others to really really help the drivers. Since we started talking to Eric (Bachelart) he's been extremely enthusiastic and he's still out there working just as hard - PT found the same thing - Eric is out there working just as hard as we all are to find the money to put behind me to get me in the car for more races. We have some money put together, I can't tell you how much, but it is not enough to do what we want to do. We're hoping that if the test goes well - doing the test has already generated interest - so if the test goes well it'll generate more interest and hopefully it'll help us seal one of these deals that we've got teeter tottering on the edge. And that applies to both Eric and for me.

16th&GT: The league just announced at the State of INDYCAR event in January that two-wide restarts will be making their debut in 2011. As a rookie in IndyCar, what are your thoughts on the new rule?

Pippa Mann: Well, I've never driven an IndyCar, so it's really hard to comment. From an Indy Lights perspective, I don't have a huge problem with it, and that may get me shot down in flames. It's going to be tough. There are going to be more wrecks. It's going to be like the start of the race. So, that's what we're going to have to expect. What we want as drivers and what I think came out of the drivers meeting, and I'm not sure how well it was actually portrayed or put across or how well the media listened to what we were saying. We were saying, 'hey, if you guys want to adopt two file restarts even the people who aren't sure about it will do it, but we want the same rules that apply at the start of the race. We want the gap between the cars, we don't want to be nose to tail two-wide. We want to have the gaps of rows between the cars. We want to go later, we don't want to go at turn four anymore, we want to go at the start finish line. And we want it to be done more orderly. At the same time we say 'hey, we know we're drivers so we know we're all going to try and get the unfair advantage. We're saying we want this, but it's your guyses job to police this and make sure it happens'. That was the big thing that came out of talking with the other drivers, and that's the big thing that I think all the drivers want. Most of them are happy to try it, even the ones who are a little nervous, but we want the same rules as we have at the starts of the race. We want the restarts to be policed.

16th&GT: When looking through the top of the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights points standings you have the Champion in JK Vernay, followed by James Hinchcliffe, Martin Plowman, Charlie Kimball and yourself. All of which have tested IndyCar's in the off season. Charlie is full-time with Ganassi, and the others are in contention for either a part-time or full-time rides. Just a few years ago it was nearly impossible for an Indy Lights driver to get a look from an IndyCar team. What's changed?

Pippa Mann: Well, a guy like J.R. (Hildebrand) last year only doing a really really good job, really helped everybody out. J.R.'s been picked up full-time this year by Panther which is absolutely awesome. I think it is getting a little easier to find money. Okay, it's still incredibly difficult, but it is getting that tiny tiny bit easier. JK has money from the series to help him out, it's not enough, I'm gonna make that clear right now. It's great, its so much better than nothing, but at the same time it's not enough to get him in the car a whole year. If he can take that money and use it to do a partial season and the team is allowed to do that with him, with that money and they can do a really good job, that would be a really good way for him to get into IndyCar, I believe. Hinch is in the same boat as me. We're still looking around trying to put it all together. I think with Charlie you've got a really interesting case, because you've got a great guy. He's personable, I actually gave an interview in Iowa last year where I reckoned Charlie would be one of the people to move up. I actually thought Hinch would as well and I obviously included myself in that list because I'm a driver and I'm going to. With both Hinch and Charlie, they're personable, and marketable as well as being good drivers. Charlie obviously is diabetic, while that nearly ended his racing career, he's taken that horrible thing happening to him and turned it around, turning it into such a good thing for him. You can't applaud him enough, he does so much for his sponsors and he thoroughly deserves the chance, all the work he does. Driving the race car these days in not just about driving the race car. It's about everything else you do outside of it.

16th&GT: You sat on Pole last year in the Lights race at Indianapolis, before being taken out early on by a spinning Jeff Simmons. You must feel like you have some unfinished business at the Brickyard...

Pippa Mann: Yes, in a word. I wish I could go back and do last years race from pole again now. Because the big thing which I think you saw with me later on in the year is the next time I sat on pole, I did not make the same mistake twice. People can complain that maybe I went a bit early or what ever, but hey, I learned that I'm on the pole and it's my decision as to when I start the race and I learned that the hard way at Indy. You know, that's what it came down to in the end, that's how I ended up in the position I was in and not leading into the first lap. I was trying to play by the rules and start the race when they told me to and because I did that everybody else knew when I was going to go before I went, practically. You learn the hard way, if I was back there now I would by P1 going into turn one, then we'd see what happens in the race.

So, yes I do feel I have unfinished business. My big goal has been to put together a program to race the big car and especially at Indy. If that all fell apart, would I do a 'Wade' lets call it and make a come back for the (Firestone Indy Lights) season, I don't know. If I did I would have to do it with Sam. [Laughs] I wouldn't consider doing it with anyone else after last year, I'd want to be with him again. But you know, my engineer would be working with someone else, my guys would be with someone else, it's probably more a pipe dream than a practicality. We are really really close to having a budget for Indy right now, so that's a decent starting point.

16th&GT: You've been tweeting lately about a big move to Downtown Indy, first off congrats, but now that your an owner, that means you plan on staying in Indy for a while which means that you see yourself in IndyCar for the long term. Correct?

Pippa Mann: Yes, I see IndyCar as my future for the long term. I had a place in the UK, the rent there was paying for my rent over here, because that was being rented out to someone else. I've been dating a guy over here for the past two years and he had some money saved up and I had some money in that place and we were just like 'you know what, it's time to be done renting. Lets get a place and we thought it would be kind of cool to live downtown for a while, but I tell you moving is a lot of hard work! [Laughs] And especially when it comes at the same time as your trying to get a test organized as well, it's really really tough.


Thanks to Pippa for taking the time out and best of luck to her in her Texas test with Conquest Racing on the 28th!


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