Tuesday, February 2, 2010

IndyCarGarage talks with Pippa Mann

Firestone Indy Lights driver Pippa Man recently signed with Sam Schmidt Motorsports to drive in the 2010 Lights season. Pippa took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for IndyCarGarage. (Pippa is pictured from her recent test Firebird circuit in Arizona, Phoenix)

1. Pippa, tell us a little about your background and how you got into racing.

Well I'd always loved watching Formula One races on TV back home in England, but I never thought about driving until I went indoor go-karting quite by chance. I was immediately hooked, and it was then that I had my first proper outdoor kart for my 13th birthday. We turned up to about one race per month - just me and my father with almost no tools – and everything kind of progressed from there.

2. You raced a variety of series in Europe, how did that help you coming into the Indy Lights series?

I only raced in two single-seater series back home in Europe. I came into Firestone Indy Lights from the World Series by Renault, which is all about high down-force, fast cars with carbon brakes and electronic paddle shifts. As a result, that series didn't really prepare me for Indy Lights at all. I’ve had to learn how to drive on the harder tires, how to "lift to shift", breathe the throttle when going up through the gearbox, time my footwork coming down through the box again almost from scratch, and actually just a different driving style altogether. To be honest with you it would have been much easier coming from one of the middle formulae in Europe (like Formula 3) that I skipped when I made the big step up to WSR, because every time I get into the FIL car - I'm still learning.

3. Sam Schmidt Motorsports has excelled a great deal in Indy Lights, talk about what it means to be able to drive for one of the premier teams in Lights.

When I received the phone call from Sam after the last race of last year, asking me to come and test one of their cars at Kentucky, it was a great feeling. I had experienced a tough first year in Firestone Indy Lights, and wasn't sure what the future was going to hold for me. Doing the tests with SSM, and then signing for them, has given me such a positive vibe going into the coming season. I really enjoyed working with the guys at the tests, and while I still have a lot to learn from them before the season really gets underway, I am so happy to be with this team, and be in a position where I am able to learn.

4. Tell the fans what a typical race day schedule experience is for you, start when the alarm clock wakes you up and end when you’re leaving the track.

In the Firestone Indy Lights series, we don't really have a ‘typical’ race day schedule. It depends on whether we're on a street course, road course or oval; how many other classes are running with us; whether we're a one day event, two day event, or even three day event. Often race day is actually the least busy day, as often we are a two or three day event, meaning the only thing which happens on race day is the race itself, with qualifying and the testing having taken place the previous day.

However one thing is generally consistent - the alarm call is going to be early. This seems to be without fail - never mind what time we're actually racing, and when we have a morning warm-up on race day, the alarm goes off even earlier… I am not a fan of mornings!

Normally race day just involves turning up at the track, making sure you're eating the right foods to give you energy without weighing you down or making you feel tired, getting hydrated and staying hydrated so that whatever the heat conditions you won't get tired through dehydration in the car.

We check our race kit, check our helmets, get the tear-offs on, meet with the engineers to discuss what the changes made to car overnight are - there isn't really a specific routine.

5. What is your favorite track to race and why?

In Europe I was a big fan of racing at Estoril (in Portugal) and Monza (in Italy). Here in the States, I really enjoyed driving at Watkins Glen last year, and I loved just about every oval we went to. My favorite of those however being Homestead and Indianapolis - I love those two places!

6. What are your goals and expectations for 2010?

I'm really not one to try and hypothesize about the future. I don't really like making predictions, and making goals public, because it's very easy to make a rod for your own back. I also am very insistent on any goals that we set should be realistic and achievable ones. Inside the privacy of the team, we have already set these goals of where we want to be, and where we want to aim to finish the year, and we're already working hard towards them.
However, all that being said - I think it's safe to say I want to do better where I struggled last year on the street circuits, improve again on the road circuits, and - well, look out for my car on the circuits where we turn left a lot...!

7. Anything else that you would like to tell the fans and members of IndyCarGarage?

I guess I just want to say ‘hello’ to everyone, and thanks to everyone who is already a member of my website Fan Club, or who follow me around on Twitter, or Facebook. I think the internet provides a great way for people to get in touch via these forums, so if you haven't looked me up yet, and you want to say ‘hello’ back, just search for my name in one of these forums, and you should find me!

IndyCarGarage would like to thank Pippa and wish her the best of luck in the upcoming season!

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