Mann’s test could lead to oval program

By Dave Lewandowski

Pippa Mann’s test in a Conquest Racing car Feb. 28 at Texas Motor Speedway could lead to a full oval program in 2011. A full-season program is the goal for 2012.

Mann, who recorded one victory and seven top-10 finishes overall in 27 Firestone Indy Lights races the past two seasons, will be joined on the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval by Panther Racing’s J.R. Hildebrand and Simona de Silvestro of HVM Racing. Hildebrand, who put in two days of track time this week at Firebird, and Mann will go through their rookie oval test.

“It feels like it has been an extremely long off-season,” said Mann, “and I can’t wait to finally get back behind the wheel of a race car. We have been working exceptionally hard throughout the winter to put together a program for me to run in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and while our main focus has been on the Indy 500, we would obviously like to run as many of the 2011 races as possible. We are most likely now looking at a full oval program, which will hopefully bridge the gap to a full-time drive in the series in 2012.”

Mann finished fifth in the Firestone Indy Lights championship in 2010 with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, with a victory at Kentucky Speedway and three pole starts (including the Firestone Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway). She had three top-10 finishes in 2009 with Panther Racing.
JK Vernay, the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights champion, tested with Conquest Racing on Jan. 31 at Sebring International Raceway.

“I’ve watched Pippa race in the Indy Lights series and she’s constantly progressed over the course of the two seasons,” Conquest Racing owner Eric Bachelart said. “I’m pleased to be able to give her the opportunity to drive an IndyCar for the first time and I can’t wait to see how she will perform behind the wheel of the Dallara. From a team perspective, it will be a special moment as she will be the first woman to test with us. I’m looking forward to it.”

The IZOD IndyCar Series returns to Texas Motor Speedway on June 10-11 with the Firestone Twin 125s (two races on the same evening).


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