For the sixth straight year, Pippa Mann will run the Indianapolis 500 for Dale Coyne Racing. As she prepares for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, she took some time to answer some questions for POPULAR OPEN WHEEL.
POPULAR OPEN WHEEL: What are your thoughts going into Indy 500?
PIPPA MANN: I’m very thankful to both Dale Coyne Racing, to Donate Life, and to all of my other partners for helping me return to an IndyCar again to attempt to qualify for my seventh Indy 500 this year. Right now it’s a mixture of anxiety, and happiness intermixed – it’s a year since I was last in an IndyCar, and we have a big field again this year, but I’m confident in Dale Coyne Racing, and I’m hopeful we’re going to have a good May.
POW: Given your past experience at Indy, what are your goals for this year’s event?
PIPPA: I’m thrilled that my engineer, Rob Ridgely, is coming back to engineer me for a third year straight, and we just want to keep building on the platform we’ve built working together over the past two years. We’ve come pretty close to checking off that top 15 finish two years in a row, but this year we would love to shoot to try and check off a top ten.
POW: You’ve been able to do a one-off for a couple years now. But for the fans that don’t know, how much work goes on behind the scenes from your part to put it together?
PIPPA: Trying to field a one-off entry for the Indy 500 the way I do it is a huge commitment. I’m extremely thankful to Dale and Gail Coyne for allowing me to return to their team for the sixth year straight, and knowing that I already have a car effectively entered for me makes a big difference when I’m talking to sponsors, and potential partners. Despite the fact I only race once a year in IndyCar most of the time, I try very hard to look after my partners the entire calendar year, and I don’t work with a big agency, or have a big team of people working with me, so I am the main point of contact for almost every sponsor you see on my car, and I have responsibilities to all of them, throughout May, and throughout the entire year. From podcasts, to appearances, to recording or shooting advertising, or even keynote speaking, you’ll find me wearing many hats when I’m not in a race car.
POW: Carrying Donate Life on the car, what does that mean to you?
PIPPA: It’s very difficult to sum up in words how much it means to me to have been asked to be part of this program, but while it’s very special, it’s also something that comes with a lot of weight and responsibility.
POW: Is there a possibility to see you do more IndyCar races this season?
PIPPA: I’m hoping to be doing some racing in another series, in sports cars again in 2018, but I don’t have that confirmed yet either… I’m thinking it’s most likely I will probably only be racing at Indy in an IndyCar this year.
POW: Now this year’s Indy 500 will have both you and Danica Patrick. Given how outspoken you’ve been about females in racing, what does that mean to you?
PIPPA: Personally I think it’s very cool that Danica gets to come back to Indy for her final race before retiring. I think it’s more important that someone who has a pretty stand-out record at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, had the opportunity to put together a deal, with a top team, to come back and compete at the race one more time. However this has nothing to do with her gender; it’s cool that she’s able to do to this as a racer.
POW: You started the hashtag #WeRaceAsEquals last season and it took off with the amount of responses. How surprised were you?
PIPPA: I think the response has been fantastic, and so many female racers have made the tag their own. Being female does not make us less, it does not make us more. I like to tell people that being a female driver is like being a British driver, or an American driver. None of these things affect our ability behind the wheel, but it might affect how we were raised, who is going to cheer for us, or against us, and yet if you use the word “ female” in front of the word “driver” it still starts a conversation that we wouldn’t need to have if you simply described me by my nationality instead. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t shy away from the term “female racer” necessarily, because the only way I can do my small part to help this change is to be visible, and to be heard.
POW: Now you started your scholarship program and have had Zoey Edenholm, Hannah Adair already there showing them the ropes. What does it mean for you to be able to give back?
PIPPA: The Scholarship in my name, started by the Lucas Oil School of Racing, has actually already seen five drivers through so far this year, and we’re hoping to open up again for more applications soon. I’m thrilled to be able to be part of this program, and I’m so grateful to the Enersons who own the school for affording me this opportunity to try and help work with and mentor more up and coming female racers.
POW: For other females in racing, what would be your advice to them?
PIPPA: I think the advice for female racers is largely the same as advice you would give to racers of any gender. Determination and tenacity are important qualities, as is the ability to bounce back from set-backs and disappointing days of weekends. In today’s world learning about marketing and PR, and how to do the right things with your social media to appropriately represent yourself and your sponsors is important for all drivers, as is applying the same determination and tenacity I mentioned above towards finding the funding to race as well as on the race track itself.
For female racers specifically, I think the big thing is to surround yourself with good people, and work with a team that supports you. While this is also true for any racer, as a woman in this sport your good days, and bad days, will all be held up as an example to others as to why you should, or should not, be out there with everyone else. Getting used to that pendulum swing of opinion about you, and knowing the truth is neither extreme said is important. In the age of social media and the internet, all racers have to have a thick skin, but as a female racer you will likely be attacked much more, and from a much earlier stage in your career, online than your male counterparts. You just have to learn to shrug it off, and know that if you’ve surrounded yourself with the right people, that they will be honest with you, help you improve, and let you know when you’re doing a good job.
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