Darren Manning Q&A

After his stellar showing at Rockingham last year, Darren Manning returns to Britain as a fully-fledged Champ Car racer at Brands Hatch this weekend. After a solid start to his rookie season in the series, Manning is hoping that home ground will spur him on once again this time around in his Walker Racing Reynard-Ford. Charles Bradley spoke to him

Darren Manning Q&A

Yeah, I mean Rockingham was pretty mega last year but we only had two weeks of preparations for it, so it's similar to that but at least we'll be ready this time. The last race at Long Beach was amazing, there was hundreds of Union Jacks waving at me, so God knows what it's going to be like at Brands! I'm really looking forward to it.

It's going to be very interesting. The car is going to be a compromise anyway, because what we race at Brands we will race on the oval at Lausitz the weekend after. We're not too sure exactly what to expect, but we're pretty sure we'll see over 185mph into Paddock in fifth or sixth gear, and the minimum corner speed will be about 130mph in fourth gear. We'll be back up to 155mph into Druids, then down to 60mph in second gear. Graham Hill Bend will be second again, maybe 70mph, and then it's back up to 150mph into Surtees, which will be very fast, and then down to 80mph through Clearways.

No, so passing is going to be difficult. I reckon you'll be able to pass at Paddock, though I'll put up a prize for anyone who goes around the outside there! These cars do create a big hole in the air, so you will be able to get a tow. Although coming out of Clearways isn't what you could call a straight, it's a long time on full power, so passing on the inside of Paddock is on. You could nip down the inside at Druids too... It's certainly going to be interesting, and I think it'll be pretty exciting to watch at Paddock.

We're looking at mid-38s or maybe 37s, but we won't be running as much downforce as we would in full road course spec'. I'll have to beat the outright lap record, though, or I'll be sacked! We've got no traction control and about 100bhp less than last year, but we've got a lot more torque, so they're nasty beasts on cold tyres.

We've spent a couple of days in the windtunnel testing our aerodynamic set-ups for Brands and Germany, and we're pretty maxed out for both. I'm hoping it's going to be a couple of good races for the Reynard, but we don't know what the Lola boys have been up to.

Yes, and it's not very long either. We're not doing any pitstops under yellow flags because we have to complete three green flag stops, which is the perfect strategy. We've always had quick pitstops in the races so far, so that suits me fine.

Fingers crossed it should be good. I've always been pretty good at the start of qualifying sessions, so it might play into my hands. Knowing the circuit that little bit better than the opposition might help too. Obviously the left-side tyres will be up to temperature pretty quickly, but there's only two left-hand corners at Brands, so it will be difficult to get the right-side tyres up to temperature for those, because we use very hard compound tyres. For you guys that'll be great: 'Look at him! He's on the grass!'

Thank you! We have been catching and lapping the last six or so guys quite quickly in the races we've had so far. So around Brands, yeah, it's going to be one long train. I think I've overtaken more people than anyone so far this year, especially in the first two races, so my car is really good in race trim. Of course, experience is going to help you plough through the backmarkers quicker than the other rookies.

If my pace is anything like as good at it was in Mexico, then it's a top five finish. Our car works very well with the road course tyre. If you're running in the top five in one of these races, then you've got a chance of winning it. The races are long, there's lots of pitstops, the backmarkers will be a problem...Anything could happen because there's so many different variables. I'd be happy with a podium.

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