Darren Manning column

AUTOSPORT's Champ Car columnist Darren Manning gives us his views on the the latest race in Miami, Florida

Darren Manning column

The weekend started out well. We're always quick in the wet and we were second fastest in first practice. That made us pretty happy, but it didn't give us any dry running for qualifying and that made it tough. Then I clipped a wall on my out-lap and they took away my best qualifying lap, so we ended up 13th after the first day.

On Saturday morning, I lost a gear during the only dry practice session and I never ran new tyres or low fuel. We were fortunate to improve to 12th on the grid, but there was plenty more left in the car. I was definitely well under the limit.

We started the race with the car exactly the way it came off the truck. It was pretty hectic and the conditions were as humid as I can ever remember. I ran alongside Tiago Monteiro for half of the first lap until the point where the track gets narrow and I decided to let him go, because I knew my race would have ended if I'd tried to keep alongside him. But I was able to pull away from Jimmy Vasser and Mario Haberfeld.

After the first pit-stop, I had a massive moment on the big bump and I clipped the wall and knocked out the toe. After that, I was struggling and the car pulled slightly to the right. We made about six stops to check the car over, and that put us on a different strategy that allowed us to lead a few laps, which was great for our sponsor, Sportsbook.com.

Unfortunately, I knew it wouldn't last because we had another stop to come. However, I was still looking at an eighth place finish until I snicked third gear on a downchange and broke the dog rings. I was able to double-shift for a while, but eventually that didn't work any more and I had to pull in with 12 laps to go. That ended our run of top-10 finishes, but the attrition was so great that we still got a couple of points for 11th place.

It was one of the hardest races I can recall and my water bottle didn't work for the first 50 laps, which wasn't very polite. Vasser and Haberfeld finished fourth and fifth, so that showed what might have been. As it is, I've just got to focus on testing at Sebring this week and hanging on to a spot in the top 10 of the championship.

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