CHAMPCAR/CART: Darren Manning, Phil Barker press conference, part II

An interview with Darren Manning Phil Barker Part 2 0f 2 Q: Phil, there's been talk of maybe this team doing additional races in the future. Can you give us an update as to where that is right now? Phil Barker: At the moment obviously...

An interview with
Darren Manning
Phil Barker

Part 2 0f 2

Q:   Phil, there's been talk of maybe this team doing additional races in
the future.  Can you give us an update as to where that is right now?

Phil Barker: At the moment obviously the comments there have come from Rockingham. That's based on the amount of media and interest from sponsors over here in Britain. Obviously, David has said previously that he wasn't out to set up a British racing team, but if it's born from it, all well and good. Personally, we're very happy to be linked with Champ Car and CART. I'm sure if an opportunity arises for next year, we certainly would look at it. It's something we've wanted to do for a while, get into the single-seat arena. Maybe we didn't have our sights set as high as CART and Champ Car, but here we're now and we intend to make the most of most of it.

Q: Will there be any Dale Coyne personnel in the pits?

Phil Barker: For sure, yeah. Definitely. The crew chief and the race engineer are from Dale Coyne. There's several skilled staff from the Dale Coyne and Sigma setup. That's all been complemented with staff from RML. We've got a very good blend of all skills in the team. It's just a matter of honing them in to work together as a unit over the next week for the race.

Merrill Cain: RML is Ray Mallock, Ltd., which is a specialist automotive engineering company located in the UK.

Q: Darren, could you elaborate, you said you did some of the HANS testing for the BAR Team?

Darren Manning: As you know, Formula 1, they like to think they can make every nut and bolt better, faster, lighter, stronger than the one they had the week previous. When they got the HANS device over, it's quite a heavy, very strong bit of equipment, as you can imagine, for its job. They were making lighter versions, trying to keep the same stiffness there, maybe make them a little bit more comfortable.

Q: So you tested with the variations?

Darren Manning: Yes, absolutely. Hence the name "test driver." We're the test dummies. Some of them were very uncomfortable, but the right strength and right lightness. Basically that really, just testing different variations.

Q:   The one you're going to be wearing at Rockingham will be one that
has been  -- went through the evolutionary process with BAR?

Darren Manning: No. This is just the proper HANS device that all the other guys in Champ Car will be using, just exactly the same, FIA approved, Champ Car approved HANS device.

Q: Phil, can you talk about how much CART had a role in facilitating this ride?

Phil Barker: CART had a very big role. Without CART, it wouldn't have been possible. I believe there was certain criteria within the contract between Rockingham and CART that it would be possible at some point to facilitate another car in the series when it came to the UK. As it happened, the two parties, Rockingham and CART, got together and made it happen. I think if they wanted to, CART could have stopped this instantaneously. But I think they were very receptive to the fact. We applaud their decision to run with it. It's given the British fans a great opportunity to see one of our young, up-and-coming drivers perform at this level.

Q: Do you think that you'll be doing anything more with CART in the future?

Phil Barker: I think it's probably a wee bit too early to say. The ball has started to roll. There is a lot of interest in England and the UK in general with oval racing and CART. We'd like to think we're going to have a successful weekend. Our goal is to finish the race, take a lot of pleasure and pride from that. Hopefully we can attract enough interest from potential sponsors that are willing to move forward with it next year, that's what the game is all about.

Q: Darren, you've had the unique opportunity that a lot of people haven't had of not only being in a Formula 1 car, now a Champ car, but one of the new ASCAR cars over there. Can you tell me perceptions of each of the cars, strengths and weaknesses? Do you enjoy one more than the other?

Darren Manning: I think the easiest question is, I've enjoyed the ASCAR tremendously. It's fantastic racing. Like you say, being in competition with RML, they run two cars in the ASCAR championship, and they've been our competition in that, as well. It's like joining the enemy. But it's been a very friendly, competitive atmosphere. The top six or top dozen drivers are professional guys. We have the touring car champion, Jason Plato. McLaren test driver, Nicolas Minassian. He's been racing in Champ Car, he's been running with RML. That's been very enjoyable and actually helped me. You've got to set the cars up to turn left around the level, on the banking you run stagger obviously, crossweights, all these things I'm not used to having driven on road circuits all my life, setting the car to turn left, right, slow down, accelerate. That's been very useful for me.

The Champ Car obviously I've got limited experience and no race experience in that, but I'm sure that's going to be extremely competitive and going to take a lot of determination and confidence and skill to race that. The F1, that is just the ultimate really, in technology, automatic, semi-automatic gearboxes, differentials that you can play around with, hydraulics on the differential and gearbox, all the technology that Honda are bringing into it. That's just absolutely mind-blowing in the amount of time they spend testing. It's unbelievable.

Q: I know earlier the plans were set that you would be running maybe the rest of the season, but certainly were looking forward to a 2003 effort. Is this the plan? What's the progress toward that?

Darren Manning: I mean, Phil talked about it a little bit before. The response we're getting to this one event has been absolutely phenomenal, my side, team side, Rockingham side, sponsors. Absolutely everybody is going in a massive frenzy. If Team St. George has been picked up for next year and given enough funds through sponsors and things to run, it would be a great honor for me to do it and something I'd jump at.

Q: How about from the team side? Do you think it's going to be possible for next year?

Phil Barker: Well, at the moment obviously judging the interest from the sponsors and obviously the funding is going to be key to that, but our general view on it is that if the money and the sponsorship is found, we'd love to do it.

Merrill Cain: Darren, Nicolas Minassian, who we saw here in the CART series with Target Chip Ganassi Racing for a short time, I believe he helped you out at your rookie test, was a guiding hand for you through this. Talk a little bit about that, some of the pointers he gave you, and also are you familiar with the current drivers in the series, have you had an opportunity to talk to anybody, just kind of get a view from the driver's perspective of what it's going to be like for you this weekend?

Darren Manning: With regards to Nicolas, we're good friends, we've raced together since '97 I believe in Formula 3, so we're good friends, know each other well. Also raced against each other in the ASCAR series. He was there as an official, if you like, from CART to supervise the rookie test to make sure I completed my hundred miles, completed them competently enough. You know, he was there just giving me a guiding hand. He knows I'm an experienced driver, similar experience to him, not on the ovals. He just told me to give it a bit of respect, take it easy, it's not qualifying. Told me to build up. Gave me advice about rolling the speed into the corners, which maybe I knew, maybe I didn't. But it was good to speak to him. He was very encouraging to me after I done the test, you know, gave me some advice about the pit stops, as well.

With regards to the drivers in the championship, yeah, I know Dario Franchitti very well. He's obviously raced a lot in Europe. He raced in CART. Couple years ahead of me, being a bit older than myself. Bruno Junqueira, I obviously raced against him in Formula 3000, tested alongside him at Williams, as well. You know, former superstar Juan Pablo Montoya, very good friends with him, we've been racing since way back when. We started karting together a long time ago, 14, 15 years ago now. We still chat. I haven't had a chance to speak to anybody before this race obviously because it's happened so fast. Don't worry, I'll be bending Dario's ear trying to get any tips I possibly can. I'm sure he'll be watching out for this young guy in his side.

Q: Darren, with ASCAR you have some experience on the Rockingham oval, how much can you take from your current experiences in racing in the UK into this weekend?

Darren Manning: Well, hopefully a lot. You know, I think probably the biggest thing is adaptability, I guess, because obviously it's going to be something totally different to what I'm used to. Obviously, I've raced on ovals side by side in ASCAR, but you have a big body, two tons pushing you around, whereas this is a light, nimble car, open-wheel, maybe slightly more dangerous. I've been racing single-seaters for nine years now up to Formula 1, as I say. You learn a lot. Hopefully I can rely on those memory banks and hopefully it will get me through. The team has a lot of things they want to go through to help me cope with this in the testing. Obviously, I've done this rookie test always by myself. During the warm-up and things, I'm going to be trying to get drafts off of the cars, if they'll let me run close without backing off or anything. There's little things like that that the team can do to push me and also things like doing long runs in the warm-ups with full tanks, practicing pit stops all the time. They're trying to prepare me the best they possibly can.

Q: Given your experience with F1 and all the other disciplines, dealing with the setup of the Champ Car, have you some limited time on the oval, how do you view yourself with that? Are you able to really read it right, comparing notes with the engineers?

Darren Manning: To be honest, I've been trying to spend as much time as I possibly can with David, the engineer. You know, he's been running through the precise setup that they're running on the car. But to be quite honest, I mean, the setup of the car, with my race car experience, it fit very, very good, inspired me with a lot of confidence, enabled me to just go faster and faster. The car finished third at Motegi earlier in the year. Its oval setup is a pretty good starting point. I can go out there and say, "I know what push feels like." I'm not trying to say to David, "I know everything, I want this, I want that with the car." That's not generally how I work anyway. I'll just say to him, "Coming out of turn four, it's got a bit of push, a bit loose in the middle of the car, when I'm coming out of the gas a little bit, sometimes have less of a lift and things." I just try and tell him exactly what's going on in the car. I think that's what I can take from my past experience, my knowledge of what a car feels like. I'll just relay that to David and Chris, the other engineer, and hopefully they can make some changes, make it go better.

Q: Darren, you've been running at Rockingham, there was a problem with the weepers. Have they been fixed? Are you still seeing those weepers from time to time or are they gone?

Darren Manning: No, totally fixed now. They've done a hell of a lot of work on it with regards to sealing the whole circuit, resurfaced on top of that with an extra four inches. Where the seams in the track are, they've sealed those, as well. Absolutely nothing can come through. The track is running beautiful and actually drives extremely fast. I'm sure it's not going to rain. It's England, it's never rains (laughter).

Merrill Cain: The forecast is for pretty much dry weather for the entire weekend. We'd like to thank Darren Manning and Phil Barker for joining us on today's call. We wish you both of luck this weekend. We'll be keeping a close eye on you. We look forward to seeing you on the track in a few days.

Darren Manning: Thank you.

Phil Barker: Thank you.

Merrill Cain: The Rockingham 500 will air live in the United States this Saturday at 8:30 a.m. eastern time on the Speed Channel. Thanks to all who participated in today's phone call and have a very pleasant afternoon.


Manning, Barker press conference, Part I

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Nicolas Minassian , Chip Ganassi , Ray Mallock , Dale Coyne
Teams Williams , Chip Ganassi Racing