The blog you are about to read is what happens when a big-time racing magazine and website asks a virtually unknown girl to blog for them during the month of May…
I'm treating this first post as something of an introduction. I'm assuming that most of you don't really know who I am, or why RACER has asked me to write for them. I mean what does a fairly average girl, with a fairly excessive shoe and handbag compulsion, a terrible Twitter addiction (@PippaMann) and a haystack of blonde hair have to do with anything?
Well, a couple of weeks ago, the honest answer would have been, “Not much!” I was simply another out-of-work racing driver, pounding the pavement and knocking on doors, chasing any lead that came my way and trying to stay positive while riding one of the wildest roller coasters I've ever experienced.
At times this winter, I'd really believed that the deal was right around the corner, and right about to happen. However, the closer we got to May, and the closer we got to the big day, the further away it all seemed to be. The prospect that I would be spending the biggest race of the year standing upright rather than sitting with my arms out and legs pedaling (which is a much more natural body position for me) was not exactly something I was looking forward to. It should probably be said that, in the privacy of my own home, it wasn't exactly something I was handling with grace, either.
And then, of course, I got the phone call. Although THE phone call is a much more appropriate way of phrasing things. I finally got to sign my name on one of the most important pieces of paper I have ever signed in my life. In case you're still wondering where I'm going with this, I should probably just put everyone who's waiting for this line out of their misery already: Hi, my name is Pippa and I'm going to be the driver of the No. 36 Conquest Racing entry at this year's Indianapolis 500!
Yup, that hasn't gotten old yet!
So far, I have done all of one day of testing in an IndyCar. In fact, since the Firestone Indy Lights season finale at Homestead last October, that's the only time I've sat in a racecar during the past six months other than when I was making my seat. It's from that one test, that one opportunity, that we've been able to really start to pull this deal together. Before I did the test, I was just another Lights driver with a win under my belt (at Kentucky last September, RIGHT) trying to find a way to get a toe in the door for the IZOD IndyCar Series. After the test I had a new label to add to my collection. “Good.”
So, I remained underfunded, and trying to pull together a budget. I remained a driver who didn't already have a name in the IndyCar Series to help sell myself. I remained a driver with no experience, no spectacular unique selling point to help my cause, and no idea of whether I would actually get back into an IndyCar. But I now had a team, and a team owner, Eric Bachelart, who were fighting both for me and with me. They wanted me back in their car as badly as I wanted to get in it.
We now have a program pulled together for this year's Indy 500. Right now we are working on more, but that's the only race we have. I will be in one of around 40 cars trying to qualify for the biggest race of the year. It will be the first time I've ever attempted to race or qualify an IndyCar, and I am the absolute dictionary definition of rookie. And yet we're going ahead with this program, and we reckon we have a damn good shot at sticking this thing in the show. Goliath might not like it, but it would sure make David proud.
It's not going to be easy. It's going to probably be the toughest and most tense week of my life so far. There will be thrills, spills (hopefully not too many of those) and skills. And RACER has given me the opportunity to invite you all to read along during May and share in those experiences with me.
It's been a wild ride so far this year, and something tells me it's about to get a lot wilder. The calm right now is the calm before the storm. The distant rumbling may be the sound of the roller coaster engines just ticking over, waiting to fire back into life for two weeks of May. But I'm here, and I'm as ready for it as I'll ever be.