CHAMPCAR/CART: Darren Manning press conference, Part I

Champ Car Teleconference transcript. April 22, 2003 Darren Manning Part 1 of 2 Eric Mauk: Today we are delighted to be joined by the driver of the ...

Champ Car Teleconference transcript. April 22, 2003 Darren Manning

Part 1 of 2

Eric Mauk: Today we are delighted to be joined by the driver of the #15 Royal Automobile Club Walker Racing Ford-Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone, Mr. Darren Manning. Thank you for joining us today.

Darren Manning: Not a problem.

Mauk: We regret to inform you that Derrick Walker, team owner of Walker Racing, could not join us today. We know he was scheduled, but we are having a board of directors meeting here at Champ Car headquarters, and Derrick was hoping to sneak out of it, come down for a few minutes and talk to you guys, unfortunately the meeting heated up a little bit, they took a short break for lunch, and he was unable to join us. We apologize for any inconvenience there. But it does mean we get to spend a little more time with Darren heading into what is probably one of the races you circled early on when the schedule came out, Darren, as we go back to Brands Hatch, a circuit you spent quite a bit of time on in your early racing career.

Manning: That's right. It was actually the circuit that I started my single-seat racing career on. I did a winter series there in a junior kind of starter category in preparation for a full season. Well, just coming straight out of karts I thought I best have a bit of practice doing some standing starts and things like that. So there was a winter series put on at Brands Hatch, Formula First category, held over five races. So, yeah, got some good fond memories.

Mauk: You ran in that series two years, if memory serves, finished second both years. Tell us a little bit about those cars, what kind of challenge that proved for you.

Manning: I only did the Formula First for the winter series, then I went into Vauxhall Junior. They're very similar in looks to a Formula Ford car with no wings, but actually a slick, short car, slick tires. Everybody's got the same sealed chassis and sealed engine. So it's a pretty -- what I thought was coming out of karts, not the big money to spend on, you know, the Van Diemen or the Swift or whatever Formula Ford chassis and different engine. It was a cheaper starting category, supported quite heavily by Vauxhall.

And then after that first year coming in second, actually to Ralph Firman, a good friend of mine as well, he moved up into the senior category of the Vauxhall championships, which was a slicks and wings category, a bit like maybe your Barber Dodge Series.

Mauk: Heading to Brands Hatch, obviously not the first time you've run the Champ Cars in front of the home country crowd as you made your debut last year at Rockingham Motor Speedway, ran 18 laps there, finished ninth in what was a very successful debut. Heading back to England this year, talk a little bit about the pressure of performing in front of the home crowd.

Manning: Pressure I believe is something you put on yourself, to be honest. I'm looking forward to it, you know, more than ever really. You know, hopefully going to revel in this new-found atmosphere that I hope I'm going to be finding there. You know, Rockingham was very much a short-notice thing where I only found about the drive about two weeks before the actual race, but now I'm a seasoned campaigner and got a few races under my belt. A lot of the guys -- a lot of spectators will know who I am, I guess. I've been watching the races on television. It's going to be a different kind of pressure to last year, definitely, but hopefully something that will spur me on rather than make me go backwards.

Mauk: Definitely appears that you're finding your way in the Champ Cars, now heading into what is your fifth career start. You finished seventh at Monterrey, Mexico, finished eighth at Long Beach, and qualified a career best 10th. Are you happy with the way things have started so far?

Manning: Yeah, very much. I mean, very happy in one respect with the way the races have been going. I've been able to overtake and come up through the field, but slightly disappointed in the first couple of qualifying sessions, not really fulfilling our full potential. We had a fuel pickup problem at the first race where we thought we should have qualified in the top six, and I broke a gear unfortunately at Monterrey, Mexico, where I thought I was maybe on line for a top five qualifying position. So, yeah, the guys have given me a good car underneath me to do a good job really, so hopefully this is going to continue and it's going to be good going into Brands Hatch for the next race.

Mauk: Absolutely. We're looking forward to it, as I'm sure a lot of other people are. We'll go ahead and open it up to questions for the media now.

Q: Obviously, you've got probably more experience than anybody else on the Brands Hatch circuit. You have your three races this year under your belt as well as the end of last year. You know what a Champ Car is all about. What do you think, what are going to be the big challenges in getting around Brands Hatch? Do you see any places to pass? What do you think a lap time will be? All those questions.

Manning: All those questions at once? You always sort me out. I think as challenges, firstly, it's going to be the closest thing to an oval that we've run on, as in road course, especially road course trim with braking, lots of gear changes and things. I mean, there's fast corners like Paddock Hill Bend and Surtees kink at the back, which are going to be very, very challenging.

But I think the fact that it's so many right-handers, it's going to be very, very tough on the outside tires, especially in a long two-hour race. It's going to be very setup crucial. Also we're going to be fighting for thousandths of a second. I know it's very close this year on lap times, and probably always has been I think in CART, you know, tenths of seconds separating grid slots. But I think at Brands, it's going to be thousandths of a second. So setups and getting that perfect lap in, what's now actually I think one-car qualifying, I believe, so getting a perfect lap in that qualifying is going to be crucial.

And overtaking? Well, I mean, like any circuit now where if you brake a meter too late, you're going to run wide. It's always difficult to overtake, even with long straights. But going into Paddock, you can manuever a bit inside. You've got a little bit of room to collect a little bit of distance to collect the car before you come out of Paddock. You can get a mistake coming up on the exit of Paddock, as well. You can get a good run up into Druids, which is a bit hard-braking and down into second gear. I know the Formula 3 cars there are running at around 41 seconds, I think. Obviously, we don't have much space to stretch our legs over there, 220 horsepower little beauties. But I think we're probably going to be getting into the 37s, I would say. Pretty fast.

Q: Keep you busy.

Manning: Exactly, for a couple of hours. Yeah, it's going to be pretty hectic out there. I think it's going to be pretty physically and mentally challenging, you know, because there's going to be 20 cars in the race or whatever. And, you know, you're going to be battling for tenths of seconds for the whole two hours. There's just going to be no rest in your mirrors and no rest actually in front of you either. So it's going to be very, very tough, I think.

Q: Absolutely. Five or six corners in what you say could be a 37-second lap or so.

Manning: Yeah. There's no real straights on it either. You know, in the Formula 3s and the other categories that race there, that I've raced there in the past, you know, you do have a little bit of a rest and you can pick your line and take the hills and things down some of the straights, take some straight lines. But I think in a Champ Car, we're just not going to have time. There's just going to be no straights and no resting, definitely.

Mauk: Just to clarify what Darren was referring to, there will be single-car qualifying for the Brands Hatch event. Each competitor will get six laps, one of those being an out lap, another being an in lap. We will have four timed laps. There will be two sessions. A further press release will be put out by Champ Car later today on that, as well as the new pit stop rules that will go into effect for Brands Hatch.

Q: How do you feel about the single-car qualifying? Obviously, if you're taking some guesses if that's going to be enough laps to get your compounds warm. And just a second question. How do you feel about the competitiveness of the Reynard chassis to this point and looking forward?

Manning: Well, with regard to, you know, the one-car qualifying, I think for me actually I've been a lot further up the grid earlier on in the qualifying sessions, especially on early laps, so I think it's going to be good for me. A lot of my racing in the past in Formula 3000, racing over in Japan, the qualifying has been very, very early on in the lap window that you have. There's maybe no limitation on laps, but limitation on tires, like especially Formula 3000. Qualifying after Formula 1 has been out, the fastest time of a three-quarter of an hour session is generally the first 10 minutes.

Four timed laps? Well, I think because, like I was saying before, you know, the fact that there's no real straights. I think the tires are going to be up to temperature pretty fast, even though it's probably not going to be the hottest time of the year over here in England. But I think Brands is a good surface, pretty abrasive. I don't think it should be a problem for getting some good heat and grip out of these Bridgestone tires.

The competitiveness of the Reynard? Well, to be honest, we thought we should have qualified sixth and fifth respectively at St. Pete and Mexico, which, you know, for myself and the limited amount of testing time we've had in the car, I don't think's too bad. We had laps in the data to prove that. Long Beach, yeah, it looks like the Reynards did struggle there a little bit more than the first two races. But to be honest, I mean, we had a very poor first day, which is where most of the setup work is done. A lot of the drivers, like Paul Tracy and things saying if you don't have a good car out of the transporter, with a short amount of testing time before the qualifying, your weekend's already, you know -- you're already on a bit of a losing streak, if you like. But I've been happy. You know, we did a couple of days at Portland, as well. I'm sure with more time in the car, we're going to get more and more competitive.

Part II

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Paul Tracy