An interview with Darren Manning Merrill Cain: We'll go ahead and get started with Darren Manning who joins us from Team St. George with his thoughts following his first Champ Car race here. Driver of the ...
An interview with Darren Manning
Merrill Cain: We'll go ahead and get started with Darren Manning who joins us from Team St. George with his thoughts following his first Champ Car race here. Driver of the #19 RAC Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Darren finished ninth today and became the first driver to score a top-10 finish in his CART debut since Tora Tagaki placed 10th in Monterrey, Mexico. He also became the first rookie to lead a lap in a debut since Scott Dixon did it last year in Monterrey, Mexico.
Darren, a pretty impressive run for you. It's not an exaggeration to say you know your way around this place. Not quite at those speeds, not quite in these cars. What did it feel like for you? What do you think you did well? What could you have improved upon?
Darren Manning: It was all very good really considering the short buildup time we had. The team did just a great job. We didn't want to say too much to you guys, but we were always pretty confident the car was going to be quick. It was just a shame we didn't get any practice qualifying runs before actual qualifying. We would have been a bit further up the grid. A little disappointing.
I made a mistake in the pit stops, overshot a bit. I think it was when we were in the back. It didn't make too much difference. Unfortunately, we had an edge-out fail in one of the crucial pit stops toward the end when everybody came in. We only had a splash and dash because of the strategy, a bit like Dario [Franchitti]. The weight jack failed. We spent about 30 seconds sorting out - what felt about 10 minutes actually to me, probably only about three, I guess.
So, yeah, I mean, you never know. We could have been sitting up here in the proper press conference for the top three if things had gone our way.
Merrill Cain: Talk about your feelings. You led a lap. What was that like? What was it like to battle with Dario?
The team didn't tell me I was leading either. I wasn't looking at my pit board. I was trying to keep in the zone and concentrate on not making a mistake. When the safety car came out, they were waving everybody through, they came to me and they stopped me, I said, "Bloody hell, I must have been leading this race." Bit of a shock really.
Put the oil mixture up, let's go for it now (laughter). I was always at the back thinking, "Bloody hell, here we go again."
The team just did a great job. Big thanks to St. George, RAC and Rockingham. I think they put on a great show. Hopefully enough to maybe do something next year.
Merrill Cain: Let's take a few questions.
Q: You lost your right rear wing plate. You were able to run well without it. How did it affect the car? How were you able to do that?
Darren Manning: It was three wheels that kept going. No chance I was going to let something like that stop me. I was getting a lot of push in the car, as well. The front end wasn't working. I was trying to trim it out with the weight jack. Put some cross-weights across the car. It actually helped the balance of the car a little bit.
But, yeah, it didn't really affect it too much. The boys didn't tell me until I got to a yellow flag. I really couldn't see it in the wing mirror. They did mention something about it in one of the yellow flag incidents, but said, "Just keep going."
It was all right. Only 220 miles an hour, don't worry about it, walls and things.
Merrill Cain: Big margin for error.
Darren Manning: Inches (laughter).
Q: At the beginning of the race, a bit of a battle between yourself and Dario.
Darren Manning: He wasn't coming through, let me tell you. We had a bit of a go. I had one chop into [turn] two, and he had one chop into [turn] one. It was all right. Friendly rivalry.
Q: Dario said the first time you hit the wall, it might take a bit of an edge off the driving.
Darren Manning: What do you mean, I hit the wall once in ASCAR. It did hurt, trust me.
Nothing will take an edge off me. I don't have brain cells to worry about that.
No, that's right. I'm sure it will. I wasn't pushing the maximum with the car. Like I said, if there was a big problem with something like the endplate, I'm sure I would have felt it. I haven't really put a foot wrong in before this. It was probably about 100 or 200 miles, something like that. I was still taking it relatively easy, but still with a bit of a margin for error.
Q: I was told you had a moment at one stage.
Darren Manning: It was bigger than a moment. It was a bit of a trouser filler, put it that way. Sorry.
No, turn two, I just came out on brand-new tires. Again, we didn't have a chance to scrub any tires in. Every time I pit stopped, we had to go out on brand-new tires, and I didn't get a chance to scrub any in. Yeah, I just wanted to keep with the guy in front of me, kept it flat. I think Alex [Tagliani] as well came around the lap, there were these two black lines on turn two.
Got to be impressive, don't you, on your debut?
Merrill Cain: We don't know what's going to happen with the future of the team. What are your thoughts? Would you like to do this again?
Darren Manning: Definitely, I love this race. It's very tough. You like a challenge really up against quality drivers all the way through the field. Even when I was 16, 17, 18 on the road, it was still just as hard battling as I was for the lead. Classy drivers and teams in this championship. Just fantastic. I'd like to be part of it really.
I think I've shown I can run with the best, with guys that have won races, legends in this series. I'd like to be part of it, become one of them.
Q: Look as fresh as a daisy.
Darren Manning: I've been training hard for this one.
Q: Not much of a problem physically?
Darren Manning: No, it's all right. Trust me, Formula 1 cars, they're pretty physical things to drive. That was part of not the criteria, but from my point of view I wanted to make sure that wasn't an issue, that I was as fresh on my last lap. To be honest, trying to get people out of the way on that start, I didn't actually see the white flag. I didn't miss the double checkers. I knew what that one was.
Yeah, I got out a bit dizzy. I nearly fell over. A funny sensation.
Merrill Cain: Darren, congratulations on a great effort. Hope to see you again soon.
Darren Manning: Thank you, guys.