CHAMPCAR/CART: Darren Manning press conference, Part II

Champ Car Teleconference transcript. April 22, 2003 Darren Manning Part 2 of 2 Q: What would you tell a mate who is not much into racing about why he should come and see this race at Brands Hatch? Manning: Well, I mean, it's going to...

Champ Car Teleconference transcript. April 22, 2003 Darren Manning

Part 2 of 2

Q: What would you tell a mate who is not much into racing about why he should come and see this race at Brands Hatch?

Manning: Well, I mean, it's going to be like nothing else that anybody's ever seen before, to be honest. You know, these cars, this year especially, I think without the traction control, everybody's got the same engine. It's just so close and furious racing. I mean, we all said after Long Beach, it was like "What a two-hour qualifying session." It was so flat out and so close. There's lots of overtaking.

Also Brands Hatch, indeed, even though it's quite short, the Grand Prix circuit there is probably my favorite British circuit, and very high up on my list of worldwide circuits, as well. So it's a shame we're not running there. For obvious safety reasons is why we're not going. The Indy circuit, anywhere where you stand, you can see the whole of the circuit, and it will just be fantastic. Nobody will know where to look, there will be that much going on.

Q: What was that experience like when you had the autograph session, you carried the colors of the US Air Force, and obviously your country was a great ally of ours? What was that experience like? What kind of feedback did you get from the fans when you were over there that Sunday morning?

Manning: It was fantastic, to be honest. I got lots of pats on the back, "Thanks for supporting us." There was a couple of ex-pilots and things that were there, as well, quite a few actually that were all very pleased and taking photographs with us. I went over to the recruitment -- the Air Force had a recruitment stand I think in the exhibition center. Went over there, there was a massive queue for autographs. It was received really, really well. To be honest, everywhere I go, I was getting the same -- you know, I was wearing the cap and the T-shirt all weekend. It was different, but very nice.

Q: At Edwards Air Force base down in Southern California, I know a lot of those guys called me and said, "How do I get that stuff he was wearing?" You created a merchandising fire storm.

Manning: There you go, absolutely. I mean, so high visibility, so accessible, CART now, it was a perfect opportunity to say, "Good on you, boys," effectively support the troops.

Q: There's so many rookies in the field this year, guys that are fairly inexperienced. Can you catch Paul Tracy? Can you sense with each race, the experience factor, you're kind of closing that gap with the guy in the Team Player's car?

Manning: I mean, yeah, he's one to catch. But he's one of many for us all really. I think he'll be one of the first to say that he's been maybe fortunate to win the first three. He has been competitive, but certainly not uncatchable. Like, for example, we're all rookies out there. But Sebastien (Bourdais) and myself, we've been racing for -- I think if you add up all my karting, as well, I think I've been driving for something like 17 years now, racing for 17 years now. So we are rookies in the Champ Car state of things, in the amount of races we've had, but, you know, we're all -- all these rookies that have come in this year, we have good high ends, I think. I think Sebastien has really shown it in the obviously championship-winning car, that it can do the job when given the right bit of kick. So hopefully I can get up there and start pulling -- be in front of him instead of behind him.

Q: The Edwards guy said they're coming to Fontana to see you at the end of the year. Hopefully the merchandise will be out. Everyone is pulling for the #15 car.

Manning: I'll make sure we get some stuff by then. Hopefully we will by the end of the year.

Mauk: Tell those guys to hang on. I'm joined by Walker Racing's PR representative Melissa Watson who is furiously scribbling down notes when you talked about merchandising there.

Q: You mentioned the change, Eric, in pit stop procedures for Brands Hatch. Do you know if that's continuing beyond Brands Hatch or will there be another change?

Mauk: Stay tuned. We have a couple of press releases done. They should be hitting the wire today or tomorrow. All secrets will be revealed, all fears will be allayed.

Q: I'm sure you're thrilled to go to Brands Hatch. You mentioned how tough it was at Long Beach with the qualifying-type pace during the race.

Manning: Oh, yeah.

Q: And good test for the drivers. How do you think the rest of the Champ Car drivers will handle the pace at Brands Hatch, considering there will be really no brakes in a lap?

Manning: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Hopefully worse than me (laughter), with my evil racing driver hat on there. No, I'm sure they'll be fine. All the drivers are supremely fit. But, like I say, it is going to be a real test of your mental ability as well as your physical ability. You know, there's going to be cars behind you, there's going to be cars in front of you, you're going to be lapping cars, cars coming out of the pits. You know, it's going to be very, very tough.

But from what I've seen so far, you know, like I say, just like qualifying pace, and racing flat out, what's nearly an endurance race - time, two hours. You don't see many guys at Le Mans doing more than two hours per stint. But how hard the racing was for the full race distance over these first few races, you know, is showing me that I don't think it will be a problem going to Brands.

Q: Because the track is kind of tight and somewhat narrow for the Champ Cars, do you see a lot of wheel banging going on in order to make a pass?

Manning: Well, I had quite a bit of wheel banging and cars launching over the top of me in Mexico. The Reynard, at least, survived. I won't be too worried if there is a bit of that. To be honest, it's not actually so narrow as some of the circuits we've been racing on so far even. So there are obviously some narrow points in it, but it's pretty wide, like going into Paddock and out the back of the track. I don't think it should be too much of a problem. All these other guys, we all give each other a little bit of respect - even though it's probably just a little bit.

Q: You mentioned how good the Grand Prix circuit would be. Where do you see it might be dangerous for the Champ Cars?

Manning: Everywhere (laughter). No, it's just -- I mean, it's not too much -- I mean, we race on street circuits, don't we, where there's barriers. It's extremely fast. There's a really long straight followed by a couple of very, very fast -- there will be maybe a 150-160mph turn, and there's just not very much runoff, then straight into trees, unfortunately. So it will take a lot of work, I believe, to get the runoff areas to CART safety standards, which are obviously very, very high.

Q: Your excitement for racing at Brands is really coming out. You mentioned that pressure is what you put on yourself. Maybe talk a little bit about how excited you are going to race there.

Manning: Extremely excited. I've got about 20,000 friends and family coming down nearly (laughter). Well, not that many. But there's going to be great support. It's a race that all my friends and family can come down to see, which I'm really pleased about. From what I'm seeing so far over here, been back for the last couple of days, is going to be, you know, an awesome crowd of all guys carrying plenty of Union Jacks. It's going to be a bit of a different experience. Experienced a bit of it at Rockingham last year, but this season this is going to be something else.

Like you say, it's exciting, but I'm really looking forward to it, and hopefully going to really enjoy it. I mean, I'm enjoying my racing in Champ Cars, as it is. I haven't raced in any of the other formula like it. And to be at the world championship status that it's got, world series that it is, the quality of competitors and teams, you know, you think it would be very hard-nosed. It is hard work, obviously, but it's so enjoyable to race, and I think that gets the best out of me definitely.

Mauk: Darren, I know you have a lot to do. I appreciate you joining us all the way from England today.

Manning: Not a problem.

Mauk: Thank you very much. Best of luck. We'll see you guys next week.

Manning: Thank you very much. I'll see you all there.

Mauk: This brings to a close today's CART teleconference, presented by MCI. Keep in mind that the London Champ Car Trophy to be run on the 1.2 mile Brands Hatch short course will take place from May 3rd to May 5th, keeping in mind that May 5th is a Monday, a bank holiday in England. Thank you all and have a good day.

Part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Paul Tracy