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One year later, Mann eager to return to Indy

Zachary Houghton
| Apr 10, 2012
One Year Later, Mann eager to return to Indy

Although no deal has yet been finalized, Pippa Mann is hopeful that she will be returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a sophomore try at the Indianapolis 500. In fact, to hear her tell it, she doesn't think of much else these days.

"In the simplest possible terms? It means everything," Mann states. 

It hasn't been easy for the fan favorite to sit on the sidelines as the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Season progresses, but she hasn't stopped fighting for a return to Indianapolis, the track where she made history a year ago as the first British woman to qualify/race the Indy 500. Along the way, she managed to win over more than a few fans with her warm personality, fan accessibility, and yes, being willing to do a rain dance in front of thousands of people to increase her Bump Day odds.

Of course, her rookie debut seems solid in hindsight, but Mann knows precisely what went into qualifying that Conquest Racing machine against the deepest field the 500 had seen in years. Oh, and on a chaotic, rain-swept Bump Day, for good measure.

"We had lost mph on Pole Day and weren't sure why. The car had been torn apart overnight, and put back together again. We barely made it out for the morning warm-up on bump day, and the handling wasn't right meaning I couldn't run flat out, and the speed was down even further than it had been the previous day. We tried to put the problem right with the handling, but weren't sure whether we had or not as there was no more opportunity to test," Mann recalls.

"The rain kept coming and going, so we thought we could very well only have one shot at it. I had to get in line twice due to the rain. The second time we made it out on track, the turn one on lap one, flat out whatever the handling was going to try and do me, was the moment of truth. I will never forget that qualifying run. In fact I actually think I will remember it better than most of the runs I had to pole in Lights. Those four laps rank up there with my [Firestone Indy Lights] win in Kentucky the previous year where I ran away and hid from everyone else in the race."

That wasn't the end of the challenges for Pippa in the Centennial Anniversary 500. Her hydration system failed, meaning she was unable to rehydrate herself for the entire duration of the race. In an event where death from heat exhaustion has occured, it was no trivial matter.

"At the time I had never run a race with a water bottle that I could drink from so I didn't think it was that big of a deal...! In a way I'm kind of glad, I think the race would have been harder had I known in advance how difficult it was going to be! My longest previous race had been 100 miles in the Indy Lights car. By 300 miles I was really starting to feel the effects of dehydration in the way of cramping in my right shoulder that was bad under green, but almost unbearable under yellow. By 400 miles I was in a pretty bad way," Mann admits.

"I was absolutely determined to make it to the end, and due to the dehydration I was going through, I am expending serious energy on concentration to make sure that the pain I was in from my shoulder and the effort it was taking to simply drive the car at that point, that I was not going to result in a mistake and end my race that way. By the time I got to pit lane after coming home from 20th, I had to be helped from the car and taken straight to the infield medical center to be put on a drip. Once they got me out of the car, I actually couldn't move my right shoulder or arm at all for hours after the race."

Since the end of last season, Mann has worked relentlessly to secure sponsorship, maintained one of the most active (and interactive) social media presences of any INDYCAR driver, worked INDYCAR Nation events for fans, and has even taken a turn in the booth with IMS Radio Network during Firestone Indy Lights races, drawing positive reviews for her analysis. If there's an opportunity for outreach in INDYCAR, she's there. Still, her heart is in the Indy 500, the new DW12, and doing everything possible to make a return to the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

"The possibility that I might now have to stand and watch that race, when there is a car on that entry list that I could be getting in if we can get the funding through in time, with my personal history at that track, is just absolutely gut wrenching," Mann acknowledges. "I have tried to stay as positive as possible with the hurdles I have faced, but I cannot put into words how much I want to be in a car next month here at the Speedway. While that car is waiting for me, I won't give up on getting in it for his years 500 until the gun fires on qualifying on Bump Day."

For the fans that cheered her underdog run in 2011, or have interacted with her online or at the track, they'll be hoping that when that gun sounds on Bump Day, Pippa will be in the field once more.

Zachary Houghton runs www.indycaradvocate.com, which features regularly-updated INDYCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, and Mazda Road to Indy interviews, commentary, and more. You can find him on Twitter at @indycaradvocate, or drop him a line at mail.rpgblog(at)gmail.com.


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  12. 12 Badruddin 12 Dec
    Interesting article!
  13. 13 asphaltene removal 06 May
    It's been a long time, and hopefully she will do great then ever.
  14. 14 Bryce Carpenter 11 Apr
    In a competitive media market and in a down economy, IndyCar desperately needs personalities like Pippa's.  She is a proven talent and a relentless ambassador for IndyCar.  If I had a car, I'd give it to her tomorrow so she could race the remainder of the season!
  15. 15 Russ Beckner 10 Apr

       As others have said Pippa is great with her fans and in turn is great for IndyCar but most of all she is a race car driver and a very good one.  Pippa gained many followers after Indy last year, many of which have never got to see her race, hopefully they will get to see her back in a car at Indy for the 500.!!  Pippa mentioned the 2010 FIL race at Kentucky and yes she did have them covered that day.!!  My favorite lights race was the one at Chicagoland, even thought she may not have had the fastest car that day she never gave up and was battling right to the checkered flag.!!

    Some say that Poles and wins in other classes of racing don't matter.... I disagree with this..!!! It says you were the fastest on that given day of all that were there and a win is a win....  Many drivers have been around for years and have never set on the pole for any race in any class and some will never have win. Pippa has shown she knows how to qualify and that she can win.!!!   

       PIPPA ----- DW12----- INDY 500    :)  

  16. 16 CurlingRacer 10 Apr

    Pippa Mann is everything that today's race driver should aspire to be. Passionate about what she does. Equally passionate about involving sponsors and fans and linking the two providing a successful enterprise for both.

    I had the pleasure of first meeting Pippa at the Inaugural Winter Indy Tweetup. A gathering of race fans during the WINTER. No sponsors. Nothing to gain except some more friends and fans. Which she did instantly with her demeanor and her passion for the sport.

    We are all pulling for her to get that ride at Indianapolis. She will do an excellent job and we will all be there supporting her and her sponsors.

  17. 17 Oilpressure 10 Apr

    Aside from the fact that Pippa Mann is a fan favorite and possibly IndyCar's best ambassador - she is a very good driver. In last year's 500, I kept my eyes on her car lap after lap. She continued to move steadily through the field and did an excellent job representing her rookie class. Then to later hear the dehydration problems, made it even more incredible.

    It's hard to say that any driver "deserves" a ride at Indianapolis, but Pippa Mann has certainly paid her dues. She has earned another shot at it this year. I am certain that any sponsor that stepped up and sponsored her would be paid back in droves by fans clamoring to support them.

  18. 18 RSJ 10 Apr

    Pippa is a great ambassador for IndyCar. She needs to be in a ride this year--she'd be a great spokesperson for any effort. Keep at it, Miss Pippa! I admit, I did not think you would make the field, but you proved me wrong and I'm glad you did.

  19. 19 phil taylor 10 Apr

         I think she deserves to race in The Indy 500 she is a awesome choice and it would honor our English fans to have her represent England. I would be disappointed if she was not in Indy I might not return


  20. 20 Walter 10 Apr

    Pippa is the best. She stopped and chatted with my entire family last year at Indianapolis, even though I'm sure she had somewhere to go!

    My son got to meet her at the IMS Kids Club Party as well. If there's anyone who could be the next big fan favorite, it's Pippa. If a program wants attention towards their sponsor or product, she's the driver to pick. She can qualify at Indy & will make many fans happy in doing so! I appreciate her hard work for fans & INDYCAR, and her guts to keep after her goal--that should be rewarded!

    -Walter James

    Fishers, IN

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