Mann Breaking Stereotypes On Path Up Open-Wheel Ladder

Pippa Mann picked up her first Firestone Indy Lights triumph this season. (Bret Kelley/IndyCar Photo)
Pippa Mann picked up her first Firestone Indy Lights triumph this season. (Bret Kelley/IndyCar Photo)

Pippa Mann’s 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season was momentous, often tough, sometimes disappointing, occasionally jubilant. Driving for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, she captured three poles, including Indianapolis, and won at Kentucky. Despite breaking her left hand at Edmonton and sitting out a race while it healed from surgery, she finished fifth in points.

Now it’s all paid off for the 27 year old, voted 2010’s most popular Indy Lights driver. She’s on the verge of seeing her dreams fulfilled, for in 2011 she will be racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

“It really is a fulfillment of my dreams to race at this level,” effuses Mann. “Just to drive an Indy car around Indianapolis for the first time will truly be amazing. I’m just an average, ordinary girl who’s been able to do exceptional things. I’m really very lucky.”

Luck has had little to do with Mann being where’s she’s at today. Rather it’s her gritty resolve to succeed, often masked by a gregarious, unassuming persona, and a potent combination of talent, passion and perseverance.

Born in Ipswich, England, in 1983, she loved watching racing with her father, but, after all, she was a girl, and gave little credence to the possibility that she might someday race herself.

That changed.

When she was 12, somewhat akin to Betty Grable being discovered at a Hollywood soda fountain, Pippa Mann was “discovered” at a recreational, indoor kart track.

The proprietor of the facility had observed her for several weeks — she had first gone there for a friend’s birthday party — and told her father that she had potential and should be racing karts. Unfamiliar with kart racing, Mann and her father left with more questions than answers.

“But, lo and behold,” laughs Mann, “a kart turned up for my birthday. After that it was my dad and I in his pickup truck going to the races.”