Team St. George is GO!
Yorkshire 'Young Gun' Darren Manning will take on the American Aces in Europe's Fastest-Ever Motor Race
Beckham may be on paternity leave, but there is another very good reason to display your Three Lions shirts and St. Georges Cross flags with pride in the next two weeks. For the first time in motor racing history, an All-England team will challenge the American stars of Champ Car racing when the 200+ mph CART FedEx series comes to Britain's only banked oval motor racing circuit, at Rockingham in Northamptonshire on 13/14th September.
Brooklands, the historic home of motor sport in England, was the fitting location for the announcement today that a new English lion will head the attack. 27 year-old Darren Manning is widely regarded as one of Britain's best motor racing rising stars, with a race winning record this year in the 170 mph 'Days of Thunder-style' ASCAR saloon car oval racing series and Formula One experience as a test driver at B.A.R.
Team St. George is supported by the RAC and Manning will drive a Lola-single-seat car built in Huntingdon, powered by a Ford-Cosworth engine built in Northampton and prepared by a team run by Ray Mallock Limited of Wellingborough in Northamptonshire. While they are working in conjunction with experienced CART team members from Dale Coyne Racing in Chicago, USA; key members of that team are expatriate Brits!
"It's something special, a dream come true" said Manning, a Yorkshireman from Harrogate, who has lived in recent years in Northampton to be closer to the heart of motor racing. "To drive a Champ Car is a dream in itself, it's really got some horsepower. But the special thing here is to be a part of Team St. George. I'm a big football fan and I've carried my St. George's cross with pride for Team England. Now we've got the chance to do the same in motor racing. It's a fantastic feeling to be in the middle of all that -- and the thought of seeing all those grandstands at Rockingham, full of England flags on September 14, will be pretty awesome."
RAC Head of Brand, Gary Elliott comments on backing Darren for the drive: "RAC is absolutely delighted to back Darren and Team St George in such an exciting venture. We have always been passionate about motorsport and this is a perfect opportunity for us to get behind one of England's strongest driving talents."
Darren's appointment was enthusiastically endorsed by former Formula One driver and Le Mans race winner Johnny Herbert, who himself was tipped by many insiders for the drive.
"I think its great for Darren and he'll to a great job for Team St. George" said Herbert. "About ten years ago, I was given my first big break in Formula One by Lotus, which was a very English team. I know the pride Darren will feel at being selected by Team St. George. I'll be at Rockingham on September 14 cheering him on and I know that there'll be a lot of others there too, to cheer him on."
Manning has already covered nearly 200 miles of shakedown running with the Team St. George car. This included the all-important CART 'Rookie Test', a mandatory 100-mile run under the observation of (ironically) Frenchman Nicolas Minassian, who in 2000 replaced F1-bound Juan Pablo Montoya in the Target Ganassi CART team. Lapping at average speeds of 200mph, Manning completed the test, including pit-stop in just over half an hour!
"Of course Darren knows Rockingham well from racing in ASCAR and he knows the power from Formula One" said Minassian. "So there is no problem with his driving for sure. He's learning the car fast and he's already on the pace. I 'm quite jealous of him actually, I wish I could change my nationality, there's no opportunity like this for French drivers!"
The stunning Team St. George car features an innovative paint scheme is designed by Ian Hutchinson, one of England's foremost racing livery designers, who in the past has developed liveries for the Silk Cut Jaguar Le Mans cars and by the Jordan and Benetton Formula One teams as well as the striking RML ASCAR racers.
"The livery is designed to give the feeling of a St. George's cross flag, blowing over the car, with the driver sitting right at the heart of the cross" said Ian. "We've deliberately used a very bright red so it really stands out on the TV screens -- it's a stunner. Its been really great to be a part of this project, but as always in motor racing its been right down to the wire for us, we finished applying the last sponsor decals just as the car was getting ready to go on track for the first time! Mind you, when we see the fans in the grandstands with their St. George's crosses too -- all the effort will have been worth it."
Darren Manning will face a tough challenge, not only to beat CART Championship leader Cristiano da Matta of Brazil, but also legendary names such as Michael Andretti and Christian Fittipaldi, but he's optimistic: "I' m up for it" says Manning. "Yes, I've got to learn the car, but I feel confident already and I'm determined to be out there, in the thick of it. The fastest racing in the world and we're in it -- fantastic!"