(Vancouver, BC) --- One of Vancouver's highest profiled race car drivers, Marybeth Harrison will be leading the CART field at this year's Molson Indy Vancouver as part of her duties as the driver of the Official PPG Pace Car. PPG, a world...
(Vancouver, BC) --- One of Vancouver's highest profiled race car drivers, Marybeth Harrison will be leading the CART field at this year's Molson Indy Vancouver as part of her duties as the driver of the Official PPG Pace Car.
PPG, a world leader in automotive coatings, glass and chemicals, developed its Pace Car Program in 1979 to showcase its automotive finish products. During the twenty CART/FedEx Championship events, VIPs, media and PPG guests are treated to track rides in any one of the 35 cars in the PPG fleet. The cars are also paraded at the front of the Champ Car field before the race starts. In addition, one car is named the Official PPG Pace Car for the race and is responsible for holding the Champ Car field until the green flag drops at the start, and for keeping the field under control when there is a caution flag period during the race. Harrison will drive that Official PPG Pace Car in Vancouver.
Harrison joined the team of twelve talented women racers who make up the PPG Pace Car Team in 1998. She had applied for the position at the urging of a fellow driver and saw it as a great opportunity to get experience driving on tracks that one day she hoped to race on. She was invited, along with ten other racers from across North America, by PPG Pace Car Team Manager, Ken Lowe, to attend a test program at the Bondurant Driving School in Phoenix Arizona. "We look for a driver's ability to drive well, maintain car control, take direction and work with a team," said Ken Lowe. "Marybeth was a winner on all counts."
Harrison was invited to join the PPG Pace Car Program for 1998 and attended five races last year, her rookie year, including Long Beach, Detroit, Houston, Mid-Ohio and Rio de Janeiro. This year, she is participating in nine races including the Molson Indy Vancouver, which will be her first in the capacity as Official Pace Car Driver. "I have paced a number of support races including TransAm and Kool/Toyota Atlantic, but this will be my first Champ Car race. It's quite a responsibility," said Harrison.
The PPG Pace Car Drivers have a defined set of responsibilities. Harrison explains: "For example, when we are giving rides to guests we have to keep in mind that we're driving one-of-a-kind cars and have passengers with us. When we are doing our parade laps at the start of a race, there are tens of thousands of fans watching and even one small error could affect not only the other PPG cars, but the whole field of Champ Cars behind you. Pacing the race itself is a very big responsibility. As a result, we are generally pretty careful about what we do on the track and we make it a priority to discuss how our maneuvers are executed and what we will do in every situation."
Harrison's racing highlights include wins in karts, sedans, Legend cars, ice racers and Formula cars. She started racing in 1993 after taking a two-day racing course and realizing that she had "found her calling in life." Harrison began racing karts before moving into sedans where she drove equally prepared Toyota Corollas in a spec series. She took Rookie of the Year in 1996, then broke the track record and finished second in the series in 1997. Her open wheel Formula 1600 team was established last year with support from title sponsors Fountain Tire and Goodyear, allowing her to come away with the Canadian Formula Drivers Association championship title.
This year, she continues to drive for Fountain Tire Racing in Western Canada while maintaining a busy promotional schedule. Harrison is also competing in Formula 2000 in Ontario where she has come away with two podium finishes to date. "We do a lot for our sponsors," Harrison states. "We realize that delivering a good return on investment has to be our highest priority."
Harrison hopes to move up to the Kool/Toyota Atlantic Championship series over the next few years provided she can find the corporate support necessary for the next open wheel step. "Our biggest barrier in terms of moving up to a North American series, is sponsorship," Harrison states. "While we've been incredibly successful with companies wanting Canadian exposure, we now have to establish a partnership with a larger firm that wants national US exposure. Driving the Official PPG Pace Car for the Molson Indy Vancouver may be a step in helping me to gain that type of exposure."