Pippa Mann: back home again at the Speedway.
Exclusive interview with Pippa Mann, as she returns to Indianapolis after the 2018 disappointment. With a brand new team and once again with important messages.
It was an heartbreaking sight for any true motorsport fan, seeing the struggle and disappoitment under her helmet after the 2018 Bump Day.
When Pippa Mann was left out of the field of 33 for the last edition of the Indianapolis 500, she was in good company as full time driver and previous poleman James Hinchliffe failed to qualify as well. But knowing that Mann had a whole year in front to secure basic funding to try to get back into the car left a whole different taste compared to the other honorable and talented drivers that happened to be bumped in the long history of the Speedway.
That couldn't be it.
This is why a 30th place can feel like a victory, after a qualifying down to the very last second.
But this isn't the only reason why Pippa Mann's return at IMS is a meaningful event.
The #39 entry driven by Mann will mark the first ever participation in the Indianapolis 500 by Clauson-Marshall Racing, founded in 2016 in memory of beloved Bryan Clauson, IndyCar driver and USAC champion. Bryan died in 2016 in a racing accident, and his father Tim, together with Richard Marshall, now run the team in his honor. Clauson, as a registered organ donor, saved countless lives.
Pippa, as a former teammate of Bryan's, has certainly made him proud after the single-attempt qualifying run of Saturday, after showing some promising speed during practice.
A small, one-entry team making the field against motorsport giants was the first big story of this year. We had the chance to ask Pippa some questions earlier this week.
“...when we didn’t make the race, I thought that was it. There was no way I was going to get to come back here again.”
Racers: Firstly, we're incredibly happy to see you back in Indianapolis in May. Please briefly take us through what went through your mind after last year and the long wait for this 103rd Indy 500.
Pippa: Last year during qualifying I felt completely helpless as the driver. Nothing I was doing was making any difference in terms of how fast our car would run - even taking big risks and trimming all the way down just wasn’t working. As a one-off entry, when we didn’t make the race, I thought that was it. There was no way I was going to get to come back here again.
So when Tim Clauson reached out to me, on Indy 500 race day last year, when I was in the suite trying to look after our guests instead of being out there in a race car, that was the moment I started to believe it might not be the end. In this game, to build a program, it takes one stake-holder to get things going, and then you can build from there.
Once Stanley Ross and Ross Motorsports also got involved, then we were able to go back to my other sponsors, and let them know we thought we could make this happen.
R: We can imagine that the preparation for such an event has been long and challenging, especially more so for a team in its first entry. What are your expectations? What are the biggest challenges that you expect to face, and, at the same time, the added values that such a team can bring to Indy?
P: We’re all very excited to bring Clauson-Marshall Racing to their first Indy 500, and to do so carrying the Driven2SaveLives campaign logo that honors Bryan is very special.
As of right now, I’m answering these questions in the garage area the day before we run, and I’m thrilled with how the program has come together so far. Our car is together, has been through tech, our engine has been fired, and we have a full crew on site and working. We’re really looking forward to this adventure, and feel like we’re showing up as well prepared as we can.
R: Obviously Bryan Clauson's name and family give a special meaning to this adventure. How was him as a teammate?
P: The fact that Bryan and I used to be team-mates, and that we got on so well as team-mates, is actually the entire reason why I’m the driver in this car. This played a big role in the reason why Tim chose me to pilot their entry this year at the Indy 500, and why we’re running the Driven2SaveLives campaign logo that actually honors Bryan.
R: Speaking of Clauson, you're of course partnering Driven2SaveLives this year, and you have partnered with other important organizations in the past to spread relevant messages. Please briefly elaborate on this project.
P: The Driven2SaveLives campaign is the Indiana Donor Network’s national campaign that is designed to reach race fans, to persuade them to tick the box on the form when they renew their drivers’ license, or to visit driven2savelives.org and decide to sign up to be donors.
This campaign is the title sponsor for CMR’s #39 midget entry driven by Zeb Wise, and now for their #39 IndyCar entry driven by me too.
This year I’m also carrying the Alyse Foundation logo in on honor of my friend Kevin Krauss’ daughter who passed away from a traumatic brain injury in 2014. Kevin, and Alyse’s mother made the decision that she would go on to become a donor hero and save lives when she died.
R: As a veteran of eight Indy 500, how do you train for a race like that? Both mentally and physically?
P: The toughest thing is finding the time. This year I’ve taken almost six weeks off work as a performance driving coach so that I could try and spend as much time as possible preparing physically, and helping get everything organized so that I could help the team be as prepared as possible when we arrived at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
R: You've been racing in Europe in the initial stages of your career; we'd like to highlight the fact that you've been the first woman in the ultra competitive Formula Renault 3.5, first woman to score points and to start on pole in that series. You've been on iconic tracks like Monza, Monaco, Le Mans, Spa. How is Indianapolis different from those places? What kind of atmosphere can you perceive at Indy?
P: The atmosphere at Indy, just like other great race tracks, is noticeable as soon as you enter the facility and drive in. However there is nothing in the motorsports world quite like the Indy 500 Race Day.
R: You are one of the pioneers among female racing drivers. During the last few years we can visibly spot more and more young girls starting in karting and also some upcoming talents in junior categories. Certainly, much more still needs to be done. Do you think that young girls now entering motorsport have equal opportunities? What do you think the FIA should do to further improve the situation?
P: Unfortunately it’s still very difficult for even the most talented of female racers to progress their careers, and just like with male racers this often comes down to the money and funding. It is extremely difficult for anyone to find the money to keep racing, but there’s still a connotation of risk, and a load and negative portion of the fan base in general when it comes to female racers that can make many sponsors or potential partners reticent about stepping up.
In the US the one thing that really works in our favor is the fact that most of the paddock views and treats us as equals. This is an area where Europe very much lacks behind.
R: Finally, I'm sure you have been asked this question before: what do you suggest to young girls willing to enter motorsport and looking up to you as a role model? We often say that hard work and passion can take you a long way (and surely it is true), but we all know that motorsport is also a heavily-budget driven business. Is there something that you wish you had figured out earlier in your career?
P: I wish I had understood earlier in my career how important the marketing side of things was, and what that really meant. For the longest time I just thought it meant trying to persuade people to write good stories about me, and didn’t realize how much work actually needed to go into sponsorship, marketing, and working with people to help my sponsors and partners get value for their partnership with me. It took me a long time to realize that you have to work just as hard outside the car as you do inside the car to make your program a success.
“There is nothing in the motorsports world quite like the Indy 500 Race Day.”
Ph credits: pippamann.com