Darren Manning Q&A

After getting a taste of Champ Cars in a one-off drive at Rockingham Motor Speedway, Darren Manning set his sights on a full-time CART programme for 2003. Now the 27-year old Englishman is getting his wish. He'll pilot a Reynard-Ford for Walker Racing, with support from the Royal Automobile Club. Manning spent most of the week in Indianapolis finalising his deal with Derrick Walker, and getting fitted for his first run in the car at Sebring on February 4. He took time out to speak to John Oreovicz

Darren Manning Q&A



It's absolutely a fantastic opportunity. Champ Cars are a top-level category and it's a big step for my career. Walker Racing is a solid organisation and I can't wait to run at Brands Indy - it will be great.



I'm a racing driver, and I think that's the biggest thing I see the CART series giving to me - the opportunity to race. I don't want to talk down F1, because obviously that's the premier category, but if you're not in a red car with a horse on it, you're not going to be at the front. I see this as a fantastic opportunity as a driver because any team can win a race. It's still a way to progress into F1, and if not, it's still a fantastic world-class series racing on some of the best and most interesting circuits in the world. It's where I want to be.



Japan gave me a massive opportunity to race a full season and there is a good opportunity here in CART. Maybe talent gets recognised a bit more than the size of your chequebook. Just look at Justin Wilson - he won the Formula 3000 championship but a year later he still had to stump up to get into F1. The opportunity is here for me to compete and win races, and that got Juan Montoya and Cristiano da Matta into F1. It could be that in a couple of year's time I could be on the F1 grid as well, and hopefully without having to sign a big cheque.



The amount of preparation was probably the biggest thing for me. It was pretty daunting when I got out there with a load of other cars because I had only done the rookie test. But the car was really good and it inspired me with a lot of confidence. I think my experience with BAR and the miles I did in an F1 car prepared me for the speed. I did dozens of Grand Prix distances, and that helped me adjust to running 220 mph next to a brick wall. I think I showed how quickly I can learn, and I'm ready to show that again.



The problem is the guys' just stay there forever. I just didn't want to be a test driver for the rest of my career. I was on the books at BAR last year, but I didn't do any mileage. It's difficult because it's getting so political. There's Honda, Fiat and sponsors and big hitters that are pushing other drivers. It's difficult, really.



We had a very good relationship with Morris Nunn, through coming out to the races and talking about doing the CART season. We were pushing for a long time to sort a CART deal and an IRL deal was mentioned, but this is where we always wanted to be for a full season. But we didn't get into this much nitty-gritty with anyone else.



Definitely. The oval was excellent, but it wasn't my speciality. I absolutely love road and street courses - I was third on the grid at Monaco and loved Macau. These cars should be good. They have a lot of grip and are not overly powerful this year. You can tweak the suspension around massively like in an F3 car, whereas in F3000 you had to be very set in your ways. I'm really relishing the thought of bouncing around the walls of a street circuit. It's going to be a different challenge.



Yes, I'll be on the doorstep every day pestering these boys. I'm going to really love it here. Japan was said to be a hard place to live, but I really revelled in it, really. As a driver and personally, I want to be the best in the game and adapting to different cultures is part of it. At least English is the native language!

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