Indianapolis, IN (Sunday, 22 May, 2011) – Pippa Mann has become the first British female driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. The 27 year-old from Ipswich in the UK will line-up on the 11th and final row of the grid for the 100th anniversary of the 500-mile race, after qualifying the #36 Conquest Racing entry in 32nd position.
Mann failed to make the 33-car field on the first day on qualifications, which left her vying with 14 other drivers for the nine remaining places. Bump Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was certain to be busy, especially with rain forecast to fall right in the middle of the qualifications.
The British driver was able to complete a four-lap qualifying run before the weather called a halt to proceedings, with a fastest average speed of 223.936 mph which was quick enough to provisionally get her into the field.
With just over an hour left, the track went green, allowing several cars to make their final attempts to qualify. Mann and the Conquest Racing team headed back out to pitlane and were ready to go back out should their position need defending – but it never came to that.
As the minutes went by it became clear that Mann had earned her place in this year’s Indy 500 field, and when the session finally came to an end, the rookie driver’s 32nd position was confirmed.
Speaking about the qualifications, Mann said: “We were struggling yesterday for speed and were extremely disappointed with our run yesterday – we knew it wasn’t going to be enough to qualify. We had the car completely apart last night – the team re-built the gearbox and put a new engine in it and we barely made warm-up this morning. We made a few little changes, put it in line for qualifying and it worked.”
Conquest Racing team owner Eric Bachelart said: “It’s very mixed feelings having one car in the show and the other not make it, but it’s not for the lack of trying. We are looking forward to a good race for Pippa, and hoping she wins Chase Rookie of the Year. This is her first race in an IndyCar, and we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us so we’re going to be very busy this week.”
Looking ahead to the race, Mann added: “Overall I’m just so excited to be racing in the Indy 500, but I think relief is the overwhelming feeling after the last two days that we’ve had. Thursday and Friday were so strong for us and the speed just seemed to slip away when it mattered. This is the first time I’ve allowed myself to genuinely think about race day, and we have some work to do now! I’m the only rookie to qualify who is currently just running here in Indianapolis and not the entire season – I haven’t even done a pitstop yet! But I’m just so thrilled to be part of this race and making the field is an achievement that I’m incredibly proud of. It was not an easy feat, so a huge thank you to the team and everyone who has supported me and helped us get to this point – it’s a fantastic feeling.”
The 2011 Indianapolis 500 will start at 12:00 p.m./ET on Sunday 29th May.
For further information or images please contact Hannah Griffiths at Palindrome Sports Tel: +44 (0)7815 176587 / Email: Hannah@palindromesports.co.uk