Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript Nov. 11, 2003 Darren Manning Part 1 of 2 KENT JOHNSON : Today we are very happy to be visiting with the newest IndyCar Series driver for the 2004 season, that being Darren Manning. Darren...
Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
Nov. 11, 2003
Part 1 of 2
KENT JOHNSON : Today we are very happy to be visiting with the newest IndyCar Series driver for the 2004 season, that being Darren Manning. Darren Manning was announced this week past as the driver of the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone for the upcoming 2004 IndyCar Series season. The 28-year-old native of North Yorkshire, England was the 1999 All Japan F3 Champion. He then served as the test driver for the BAR Honda Formula One team from 2000-2002 and this past season he competed in the CART series scoring three top-five finishes and 15 top-10 efforts while driving for Walker Racing. In doing so, he recorded a season best second place finish in the season finale in Australia. Darren, good afternoon, and thanks for joining us today.
DARREN MANNING : No problem. Pleasure to be here.
K. JOHNSON : This past season, driving for Walker Racing, you recorded a solid effort in what was, basically, an underfunded team in the CART Series. Now, in joining Team Target, you are a member of a championship-winning program. Since your announcement last week, have you had time to think about what the future may hold for you?
D. MANNING : Well, not much really. It's been pretty much a bit of a whirlwind being in here, doing seat fittings and things like that and just getting to know the guys. And I mean, it's, obviously, going to be fantastic working with the Target -- the Ganassi guys here and their proven record is second to none in world motorsport even. And, Scott (Dixon), obviously, is going to be a good benchmark for me, and I am just excited, really. It's the biggest team I have raced with, and just looking forward to it.
K. JOHNSON : You mentioned your teammate, Scott Dixon, the series champion this past year. I believe you and Scott have raced in previous series' together. But, do you have an established competitive relationship from the past, or are you definitely learning about a new teammate this year?
D. MANNING : No, he's definitely a new teammate for me, really. The only real experience of racing against him was at Rockingham (England) last year when I did the one-off event over in England there and didn't really get to meet him very much. I have just -- basically just passed two words to me now this morning. He's been passing through the shop, so, while I have been doing my seat fitting, but I am looking forward to it. I have heard lots of good things about him. Like I said, his track record is very well proven and a good yardstick for me if I am, you know, obviously got his dates to look at to see if he's faster than me somewhere and if I am faster than him somewhere, so hopefully we're going to learn off each other and you never know, I might be able to bring something to the teamwork as well.
K. JOHNSON : Being brand new to the fans of the IndyCar Series, what would you like them to know or what should they know about Darren Manning?
D. MANNING : Well, hopefully they are going to find out pretty shortly. I am the kind of guy that will get out there and talk to everybody. I am pretty much a personable kind of character; enjoy my racing. Hopefully, that will come across in my driving on the track and off. I am so passionate about racing and things, so hopefully that will come across in whatever I do throughout this year, and hopefully there will be lots of opportunities for me to shine on track as well, which is where hopefully I can prove myself best.
K. JOHNSON : Darren, your oval track experience has pretty been limited to, I believe, three starts over the past two seasons - Rockingham, Germany and Milwaukee. But your results have been pretty darn impressive there.
D. MANNING : Yeah, probably my best results have been on the ovals, funny enough. Milwaukee was my best result really this year up until Surfer's where I got up into second. But yeah, I mean, the ovals are pretty new to me. Obviously last year I led maybe 18 laps on my first time out in a Champ Car run on an oval, on a first-time on a single-seater on the oval. So maybe it suits my style of driving, I am not too sure, but you obviously have got to be very precise and critical of the car and things, so hopefully that will suit me and, you know, I turn left better than I do right, as well, so that's always good.
K. JOHNSON : You started to answer my next question with your response there, but I mean, your background Formula Vauxhall, karting, British F3, All Japan F3; not a lot of ovals in those series, but, yet, what is it about you that has allowed you to adapt to different configurations; not just with the cars, but with the type circuits that you come go to.
D. MANNING : I think the experience that I have got over my 18 years of racing, if you include the karting, you know, I am not afraid to get in and out of different cars. I even raced in the ASCAR Series last year, kind of European's equivalent of the NASCAR Series, which was great. That was good oval experience and great, great fun as well. I am not afraid to, like I say, lend my hand to driving different cars and racing, you know, 11 years in single-seaters in different formulas and, you know, working at driving centers and things like that, doing passenger rides and driving all sorts of different cars on the racetrack, I think my experience lends itself well to being adaptable to different cars and different circuits. And, also, when you race in Europe like in my Formula 3000 days, there was no testing before you went into qualifying; there was very limited testing during the year, so, basically, when you went to a racetrack, most of the time that you have never seen before, and you were straight out into qualifying. And, generally, the fastest time in qualifying was the first ten or fifteen minutes of the first session because of the Formula One rubber that was let down so you had to learn the track very, very quickly and get down to a time and adapt yourself to the settings that you have. So, as well, for me, the ovals are no different to any other racetrack or any -- any car is the same, you have got four wheels, and a go-fast pedal and a slow-down pedal and you know, time to go faster than everybody else. That's just the way I work. I have got to go around faster than everybody else.
K. JOHNSON : I'd like to open our forum to the media.
Q : I want to get this one out of the way then we'll move on.
D. MANNING : Go ahead.
Q : Emotionally when Chip (Ganassi) offered you this job and knowing why this job was open, what went through your mind?
D. MANNING : Well, it was a lot of mixed feelings really. There was a lot of excitement. We had talked to Chip, you know, when -- before they signed Tony (Renna) as well, I think I was one of the guys on the short list alongside with Tony. I probably knew it was coming up, the call was going to be coming, as well, after the unfortunate accident. It was a lot of mixed feelings, excitement that I was going to get the drive, and a lot of sorrow that -- and, you know, I didn't really know what I was feeling, you know, with -- probably going to get offered the drive in these circumstance, I never, never had come across before, and very few drivers do in their career. So, everybody has been very supportive and I want to be supportive as possible to all Tony's family and friends and obviously, you know, I will be racing in Tony's memory as well. I think that's all I can say on that matter really.
Q : The one basis to what you have been able to accomplish is the fact that you did not have the best of equipment when it came with the chassis; you did not have top-flight fun. Now, you are with a championship team and that has got to give you confidence above all else.
D. MANNING : Oh, yeah, absolutely. I have been racing a long time and very rarely -- I think there's only been one time that I have had a fully funded, you know, proper professional drive, and that was when I won the championship in Japan. Trust me, I have got a very big smile on my face, you know, inside I know what I can do when I haven't got all the things available to me that I have got this year. I am just excited to get to grips and get out there testing. This is the earliest I have ever been signed before for a new season and to be testing before Christmas and things like that, with these guys, and to be able to pick their brains and, you know, it's a lot more unlimited resources than I have ever had before, so I am really looking forward to it.
Q : When I heard that you had made the deal, one of the first things I thought of was, I know that there were tons of times that you walked through the paddock in a Champ Car series and saw what everybody else had, and you had to have a bit of jealously. Now everybody could be a little jealous of you.
D. MANNING : About time, aye? For the last 18 years I have been working up to this, so trust me, I am going to revel in it, and I am going to be on top of the world with it, trust me.
Q : You make it sound kind of simple, just jump in the neat old car and drive, I am sure it is not quite that easy, but have you practiced any in the IRL car or what are your plans?
D. MANNING : No, I have been practicing my seat fittings for the last couple of days, that's about it really. And I have got a good nice selection of videotapes and paperwork that I have requested from the guys to look through before I get out there. But no, there's a test at Homestead next week, where me and Scott are going to be out on probably separate days. And then, Texas, the beginning of December, looks like I am going to be out. So that's the first time I am going to be in the car that I am going to be running in the car.
Q : Maybe clarify something for me. Where did you start in your racing career?
D. MANNING : Well, way back when I was ten years old I started in go-karts over in England, moved my way up through the different ranks in karting, mainly British Championships, but I raced for the last few years in European and World Championship level karting. Then when I was 17 moved up to single-seaters through Vauxhall Junior, Vauxhall Lotus Senior, Formula 3 and 3000 and the BAR testing which we talked about earlier. So yeah, a long, long route to the top, should I say.
Q : Talk about three English drivers competing in the IndyCar Series next year with yourself, Danny Wheldon, and (Mark) Taylor.
D. MANNING : You never know, we're taking over America, aren't we? I have raced a little bit with Danny. He is a bit younger than me, so I remember him from karting. He has had a similar kind of, you know, rise to the IRL as I have; maybe a bit of a similar kind of long route as me. I don't really know Mark very well. He's one of the guys that's risen up pretty recently and obviously put himself over here in the Infiniti Pro Series. No, there will be plenty of bacon patties and cups of tea, I am sure.