- Four years ago, Pippa Mann was answering questions in
Gasoline Alley about the record-tying four female drivers in
the Indianapolis 500, and how it represented another step
toward women one day winning at the Brickyard.
the only one left.
driver will make her fifth start in the 100th edition of the
"Greatest Spectacle in Racing," but once again
it's a one-off ride for Dale Coyne Racing. She spent most of
the past year trying to put funding together for this
weekend, underscoring the single biggest challenge for all
drivers — but particularly women.
really big thing is how hard it is for female drivers to
find the sponsorship to be able to compete," said Mann,
who has fostered a partnership with Susan G. Komen that
includes title sponsorship on her car. "It's hard for
the guys, I get that. But people think it's easier for
female drivers and it's not."
Guthrie ushered in the era of female drivers when she
qualified in 1977, and Lyn St. James became a staple of the
1990s. But despite the popularity and success of Sarah
Fisher and Danica Patrick over the past two decades, there
have still been just nine women to start in the Indianapolis
transitioned into team ownership, then merged her team with
Ed Carpenter Racing before getting out of IndyCar
altogether. Patrick made a much publicized move to NASCAR
after several years of success.
Danicamania that was supposed to propel women to the next
level at Indy, and her fourth-place run in 2005 and
third-place run four years later certainly helped. But not
even those results created lasting investment in female
drivers, many of whom have proven they can win at lower
a lot of drivers in the feeder series floating around right
now, and I'm the only one in the Indianapolis 500 this
year," Mann said. "You actually have race-winning
drivers working to get into a car."
besides Mann was sports car driver Katherine Legge, a
two-time Indy 500 starter who was going to drive for an
all-women team this year. Grace Autosport secured a
manufacturer partner, sponsorship, crew members and much of
the funding that it would have taken to field an entry.
problem? They couldn't find a car.
consolidation of teams and the decrease of entries in 2016
reduced the available options for us," team principal
Beth Paretta said in a press release. "Our partner
spoke with (chassis provider) Dallara about buying a new car
... but there wasn't a current 2016 car available in time
for the 500."
for Mann, she not only had a car but plenty of spare pieces.
She got loose in Turn 4 and hit the outside wall during
practice Friday, leaving her team just two days to repair
her ride for the race.
the ball and gave them some work to do overnight. The good
news is the damage wasn't too bad," she said.
"Hopefully it's the right rear corner, rear attenuator,
rear wing and that's all we have to fix."
meantime, Mann is hopeful there will be more women in the
field next year.
the Grace Autosport effort, young Colombian driver Tatiana
Calderon has been performing well in the GP3 Series, a
feeder series for Formula One. Norwegian driver Ayla Agren,
a 22-year-old inspired by Patrick to begin racing, is
driving in USF2000 — the first rung on the IndyCar ladder.
are female drivers out there," Mann said, "they
just need a chance."
they get it, they have to make the most of it.
think for little girls to have someone to cheer for is
really, really cool," Mann said. "At the same
time, the reason I want to go out there and have a good run
on race day is for Dale Coyne Racing and my fans and
everyone on my team and my sponsors, which is the same
reason everyone else wants to have a good run."