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February 1, 2007

Darren Manning

THE MODERATOR: Our first guest is Darren Manning, his first official test with A.J. Foyt Racing, coming off of a very successful weekend with the Rolex 24.
Darren, tell us about your run out there today, talk about the course a little bit, talk about the car.
DARREN MANNING: Yeah, it's going very well. Obviously yesterday was the first time in the car with A.J. Just a lot of familiarization going on there from my part, from the team's part, engineering-wise, getting the car to what I like to feel from the car, pretty much the changes we did yesterday, and also this morning we finished a little early. Still got a couple of big changes to do on the car, which we made overnight. We knew we were going one direction, we're going back the other direction. Lunchtime we should be quite a lot faster.
I think we're already within one and a half seconds of the fastest this morning. Hopefully we should be all right. It's quite a different than driving a DP car around here, that's for sure. Bit of an eye-opener in the first couple laps.
THE MODERATOR: Two significant change from the league this year. 3.5 liter engine, and switch over to ethanol. The first question would be, is there any difference from methanol to ethanol?
DARREN MANNING: Smells like popcorn behind the other cars out there (laughter).
No, from my point of view, obviously I drove two years ago, I guess, one and a half years ago now, quite a big difference for me. Obviously, I was on Toyota power. Ganassi's performance last year, obviously a big change for them and a big change for me. The three-and-a-half liter, the torque on this thing, it must be just a flat graph.
It's a beautiful, drivable engine on these road courses. To say it's an oval engine that's been modified for the road courses, it's not (indiscernible) in power at all. It's great. It's very drivable on the throttle. They're already saying this is what we're going to be racing on, you know, mapping wise, pit launch, pit lane speed, which is already very good. I think it's a testament to how good a company Honda are really, how close they got it to the mark straightaway. They're saying they're going to improve already.
You know, it's pretty equal out there between all the guys. That's what we all want.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Darren.

Q. This is the 50th anniversary of AJ Foyt Racing. Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with A.J. and your thoughts on joining his very historic racing team.
DARREN MANNING: I'm excited. For anybody to be involved in anything for 50 years, it's got to be a bit of a testament, hasn't it? He's still as passionate now as ever. I spent quite a bit of time already down in Houston with the team and things. It's a real race team.
He's in there every day, working hard. He's got stories galore and he's got a memory like an elephant. You know, he knows everything. I was quite impressed. I didn't really quite know what to expect. I went in there pretty open-minded. And, you know, having raced with big teams, things, the massive organizations, big structures and things, to get back to a proper race team effectively, or a normal kind of race team, is quite good and quite exciting. I was really impressed. I knew they were doing everything right.
I've said already, we're going to be going for some race wins out there this year, that's for sure. He knows how to put a race car under a driver. He understands what I want. Already today, you know, we're communicating really well and making changes going forward. That's a testament to how he works with a driver, his understanding of a driver and the race car.
He works with the engineer well. He's good fun, as well. He cracks a few jokes, as well, at the moment. I have heard a couple of horror stories about him, but it's all going pretty well at the moment.

Q. Is this your priority this year, IRL? Can we see you with other forms of racing? Are you still involved with A1 Grand Prix?
DARREN MANNING: Still got my race suits from A1 Grand Prix and things. I don't think I'm going to be able to make any more of the races. Obviously with testing commitments, race commitments over here, the IRL season, the IndyCar season starts, the A1GP season is still ongoing and just finishing up. So I don't think I'm going to be doing any more. But I still got a good relationship with those guys. If anything does come up where I can do pretty close to America, then I'm sure A.J. will be more than willing to let me drive something different. He was one of the guys that pioneered driving many different categories and things. He's happy for me to go do the DP cars, things like that. There might be a couple more during the season, longer races that I might do with the CITGO team. Yeah, for me, anything, diversify, drive different things, it's got to be good.

Q. When you said it's a real race team, can you talk about that just a little bit more, please.
DARREN MANNING: Well, you know, there's not the massive infrastructure of management and decision making. There's one guy, A.J., that makes all the decisions. You want something done, you go straight to him instead of through several different management levels. He's there at the shop every day. It's nice. You can get stuff done pretty quickly. With it being only a one-car team, I think that's probably the best way to go about it.

Q. Could you talk about the adjustments you made? Fans don't understand what you have to go through, a myriad of things you have to make an adjustment to. Talk about that.
DARREN MANNING: How long you got (laughter)?
These cars are pretty much infinitely adjustable. Obviously, the aerodynamic package, the shock packages, the steering geometries, the roll sensors, the differentials. Pretty much you can infinitely adjust these things.
You got to pretty much try and choose one direction and optimize that, then you might be able to, you know, choose one direction with your shocks and your gears, optimize that, then you might go away, go through a corner, think, This is what I want to be doing. The car is front sliding there, I want it to grip there. It's not sliding there, I want it to slide. Kind of work it out, try and figure out what the car is doing with the telemetry, data log, and things, and them maybe do some changes.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Darren.

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