New Delhi: After establishing herself in the IndyCar Series in the United States, British racer Pippa Mann gears up for something that she has never experienced before — the inaugural edition of the X1 Racing League, the first leg of which takes place at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida later this weekend.
The event, which brands itself as the "world's first-ever motorsports league", is a team-based racing event in which six city-based, franchise-owned teams with five drivers each will compete in a series of events in two legs, taking place at the Buddh Circuit in Noida and the Madras Motor Sports Club in Chennai respectively. Each team comprises of at least one international female driver along with other categories of racers such as international male, Indian international and two domestic drivers.
When asked about the inclusion of at least one female racer in every team and what it could mean for women in a sport that is still primarily seen as a male-dominated one, Mann had a positive outlook.
"With the way the X1 League is set up, it actually gave the league a unique opportunity to do something that not many other motorsport series have been able to do. And I think the inclusion of female drivers being effectively one in five members of the team when you include the reserve driver, based upon the number of us who have success in motorsport, is kind of about the right number.
"It fits in with what they’re trying to do. It fits in with the fact that they want one driver from all of these other categories as well. And I think it’s a great way to continue to promote equality in our sport," said Mann, who holds the distinction of being the first female racer to break the 230 miles per hour barrier at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the US.
Throwing more light on the topic, the London-born racer says nobody at the paddock ever brings her gender into the conversation when it comes to the racing scene in the United States. According to Mann, who moved to the US in 2009 to take part in the IndyCar feeder series Indy Lights, all that is expected of her from her mechanics, engineers and competitors is to "show up to the race track" and "be a racing driver".
However, the problem begins outside of the paddock, when her gender becomes a subject of debate on internet fora, on articles and on the social media, and how it affects female racers in general, especially when it comes to securing sponsorship deals.
“When sponsors are searching which drivers to sponsor, and you have all these negative things being said about you, it can be incredibly difficult to convince sponsors to spend money sponsoring a woman. Because for that reason, we’re still viewed as more of a risk in terms of sponsorship than our male counterparts.
"We’re all working as hard as we can to change it and one company at a time these companies and brands keep stepping up and hopefully they’ll keep stepping up and we can keep changing the paradigm," added Mann, who lists qualifying for her first Indianapolis 500 race as one of the most special moments of her career so far.
Mann will be racing for the Mumbai Falcons alongside Kush Maini, Mikkel Jensen, Sohil Shah and Karthik Tharanisingh. The other teams in the league are SuperSpeed Chennai, Black Birds Hyderabad, AD Racing Delhi, DG Races and Bangalore Racing Stars. A host of well-known names in motorsport have congregated at the national capital for the event, including the likes of Mathias Lauda, Freddie Hunt, Rahel Frey, Oliver James Webb, Gaurav Gill, Arjun Maini etc. A unique aspect of this event is the fact that drivers from different backgrounds and disciplines will be taking part in the event, an example of which is top Indian rally driver Gill who is making a comeback into track racing at X1.
"It’s certainly a very cool and very interesting idea, and I’m really flattered to be one of the drivers who is on the list for the inaugural season. When Armaan (Ebrahim) first reached out to me over eighteen months ago and told me about this idea, I thought it was pretty cool then. So, to get from there to here and to see it start to come to life, it’s very interesting to see," said Mann.
The British racer is on her first visit to India and one of the first things that struck here upon setting foot on Indian soil is the "hellacious traffic". Mann, for one, additionally hopes to experience what Indian motorsport culture is like on her maiden visit here.
"It’s definitely a lot more chaotic, it’s definitely very interesting. The traffic scene here is hellacious. You’ve got to have some pretty good Indian drivers navigating their way through traffic on the race tracks if they’ve grown up driving on those roads I’d say. But I’m really looking forward to getting out to the circuit and experiencing the motorsport culture too."
When asked how she's preparing herself for the event, the format of which is something she is not familiar with, the British racer, who also works as a performance driving instructor and a keynote speaker, had quite the straightforward answer.
"I’m a race car driver. I show up. I go where there are race cars. Hopefully they have four wheels and a steering wheel, and then I get there and I try and figure out how to drive."
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Updated Date: Nov 29, 2019 20:33:03 IST