SPARTA, Kentucky (October 2, 2011) – Whether you call them laps, trips, orbits, loops or even circumnavigations if you’re adventurous, if you want to improve as an IZOD Indy Car Series driver, you need time behind a steering wheel during race conditions to do it..
So in working toward that end, a sunny Sunday was a resounding success for rookie Indy Car driver Pippa Mann, who piloted her #30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Dallara/Honda/Firestone without incident over 197 laps of the tricky Kentucky Speedway 1.5-mile oval.
The seat time was invaluable for the first-year driver, who completed just her second race in her nascent career. She stayed out of trouble, worked over the full race to help the RLL crew improve the car, and also got priceless experience in handling green-flag pit stops.
““We had a rough stint to start the race and we developed a big push that caused us to lose a couple laps, but the guys did a great job in bringing the car back,” Mann said. “After that first stop, the car got a lot better and I was able to gain a lot of experience. Nobody laid down and gave up after that first stint, everybody kept battling hard and I was very impressed with that. I learned a lot that of things that I will be able to use at Las Vegas in two weeks.”
Mann started 29th after a spin and the subsequent contact prevented her from making a qualifying attempt on Saturday, but she quickly settled in and started to work on finding the fastest way around the racetrack once Sunday’s race got underway. The pit-stop experience paid off later in the race as Mann gained several spots with smooth stops while many of her competitors had spins and contact during their stops.
At the end of the day, the ability to keep her nose clean and the work Mann put in on finding consistent laps paid off in a 22nd-place finish, allowing her to gain seven spots from her starting position.
“We really wanted to see Pippa get a full race day under her belt with us and get more experience in these cars, and more importantly, in these conditions,” said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. “There were 29 cars out there today and on a track like this one, that’s a task that is going to keep you pretty busy as a driver. I think Pippa did a nice job keeping her head and she worked very hard all day to make the car better. Those are all positive things that we can all take with us as we head to Las Vegas in two weeks.”
Mann and teammate Jay Howard will next compete at the IZOD Indy Car World Championships at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which serves as the 2011 Indy Car season finale. The race will take place Sunday, October 16 and will be shown live on ABC.