CHAMPCAR/CART: ASCAR: Brits fly the Flag at Rockingham

Brits prepare to fly the flag at Rockingham. Patriotism and national pride are to the fore this weekend at Rockingham with significant quantities of Saltires and St. Georges Crosses expected in the grandstands around the Northamptonshire banked...

Brits prepare to fly the flag at Rockingham.

Patriotism and national pride are to the fore this weekend at Rockingham with significant quantities of Saltires and St. Georges Crosses expected in the grandstands around the Northamptonshire banked oval track on Friday and Saturday.

At the centre stage, there's the 'Auld Firm' match between Team St. George's Darren Manning, driving for the first-ever All-England Champ Car team and Scotland's Dario Franchitti which will start with the practice session for the Sure for Men Rockingham 500 on Friday and continue into the 500km race on the Saturday.

Both drivers will carry their national flags with pride on their crash helmets, as they have since the start of their respective racing career as teenagers in karts. Now their motifs will average over 200mph in Europe's fastest motor race.

Franchitti yesterday upped the ante in the "Battle of the Flags" when his car appeared at Rockingham with its livery modified to include a St. Andrews Cross on its nose. "Its my answer to Team St. George" joked Franchitti. "This is Team St. Andrew."

Franchitti from the Lothian region just outside Edinburgh is a proud Scot, one of his greatest delights is that even after a number of years on the other side of the Atlantic, he's still not lost his distinctive accent. "I'd like to come back home one day. One a nice summer's day, there's nowhere like Scotland. I certainly don't want to come back with an American accent or a mid-Atlantic drawl. Please shoot me first!"

Manning too, is proud of his Yorkshire accent and his family home near Knaresborough, although he has more recently been living in Northampton to be closer to the heart of the world's motor racing industry. "Its something we should be proud of, English companies and British industry lead the world in motor racing. I'm a keen England football and cricket supporter and I wear my shirt with pride. It was very special to put on the Team St. George overalls for the first time - I'm looking forward to seeing the flags in the grandstand."

The two drivers won't be the only ones enjoying friendly cross border rivalry on Saturday. Former World Rally Champion Colin McRae from Lanark is another whole be carrying the St Andrew's cross on his crash helmet as he lines up for his circuit racing debut in a 500 horsepower ASCAR in the main supporting race.

His 'mentor' for his training as a 'rookie' driver was Banbury's Jason Plato, who'll also be one of his on-track rivals. The reigning British Touring Car Champion and TV presenter is one of the proudest of Englishmen. "Oh, I've started winding up Colin already" joked Plato. "Its always a bit of fun to have the 'auld firm' rivalry, but I haven't just been having a go at Colin. You want to hear what I've been saying to the French driver Nicolas Minassian!"

-kpm-

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Stock car
Drivers Darren Manning , Nicolas Minassian , Dario Franchitti , Colin McRae