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Pippa Mann likes the IndyCar mix

British driver, one of four women in the Indy 500, isn't looking to move to Formula One.

May 27, 2011|By Jim Peltz
  • Pippa Mann prepares to qualify on Sunday for the Indy 500.
Pippa Mann prepares to qualify on Sunday for the Indy 500. (Andrew Weber / US Presswire )

Reporting from Indianapolis

There are four women in this year's Indianapolis 500: Danica Patrick, Simona De Silvestro, Ana Beatriz and rookie Pippa Mann.

Mann is a 27-year-old British driver in the Izod IndyCar Series. She joined the team of Conquest Racing this season after competing in IndyCar's lower-level Firestone Indy Lights series.

She also formerly raced on twisty road and street courses in Europe. But Mann said she doesn't aspire to graduate to Formula One, the international road-course racing circuit.

"I love it out here, I love America, I love IndyCar," she said. "The reason I love IndyCar is because they race on ovals as well as road and street courses.

"I may have grown up just driving on road and street courses, but as soon as I drove on my first oval, I kind of fell in love with it," she said.

Mann is starting 31st in the 33-car field. De Silvestro qualified 23rd, Patrick was 25th and Beatriz starts 32nd.

Cautionary words

Drivers had their pre-race meeting Friday with IndyCar officials, who cautioned them to be careful, especially when they start the race in 11 rows of three cars.

"Don't waste a month's worth of effort, time and money by crashing in the first turn of the first lap," Brian Barnhart, IndyCar's president of competition and racing operations, told the drivers. "This race is won by survivors and smart thinkers, not just the fastest race car."

Barnhart also laid out instructions for the "double-file restarts," IndyCar's controversial new way of having the cars take the green flag after a caution period. They formerly restarted single file, and the new format has raised concern about more wrecks.

The restarts will occur on the front straightaway, but Barnhart gave drivers a reminder: The start-finish line at the 21/2 -mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval is not exactly halfway between the fourth and first turns, but rather "much closer to Turn 1 than Turn 4."

Dixon tops practice

Scott Dixon, who won the Indy 500 in 2008, turned the fastest lap of 225.474 mph in final practice Friday on "Carb Day," a throwback term to when the cars' engines still had carburetors and mechanics made final tune-ups.

Pole-sitter Alex Tagliani was second at 224.739 mph and Dario Franchitti, the defending Indy 500 winner and Dixon's teammate at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, was third at 224.658 mph.

"I was quite happy with the balance of the car," said Tagliani, a Canadian who drives for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. "I was trying to find myself some traffic because I wanted to see what the car was capable of doing in turbulence."

Practice speeds aren't always indicative of how the cars will fare in the race, because teams often use practice to experiment with different car setups.

In addition, Friday's practice was held on a cool, overcast day. But the forecast for Sunday has temperatures in the high 80s, which could change how cars perform and make the track more slippery.

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