It ended up being a dream weekend for Pippa Mann. Pole position on Friday afternoon was swiftly followed up by a dominant win on Saturday – and I mean dominant. The young lady from London stormed to the chequered flag at Kentucky Motor Speedway, but it wasn’t a completely undisturbed run.
After the first green flag was waved off (the field was too stretched), however when the race did eventually start, a huge three-way accident between Philip Major, Stefan Wilson and series returnee Daniel Herrington. Exiting turn 4, Major spun by himself and was T-boned on the rebound by Wilson – Herrington was unable to avoid speeding wrecks. It was an accident that was scarily similar to the one that very nearly killed Alex Zanardi in 2001, albeit at slower speeds. While Herrington and Wilson emerged fairly quickly, Major was trapped in the car for a few moments – all were later declared to be fine.
It’s was appalling luck for Herrington. The 24-year-old stepped in at the last moment for Sebastian Saavedra at Bryan Herta Autosport and found himself innocently tangled in an accident before four laps had been completed. Meanwhile for the second consecutive race, the red flag was produced.
In the few laps of running that had taken place, Mann surged ahead of Martin Plowman, with JK Vernay and James Hinchcliffe not far behind.
Following a 15 minute stoppage, the field took to speed again and Mann launched herself into an immediate and commanding lead – she would not be caught. For every lap completed, one-tenth or two-tenths were added to the gap as she pulled far away from the chasing pack.
Initially Plowman led the followers, but Hinchcliffe (having deposed Vernay of 3rd) took 2nd place from Plowman on lap 15 and gave chase, but Mann was already 2.6 seconds down the road. As the laps were ticked off, Plowman clearly did not have the speed of the front runners and the 19th tour of the circuit, Vernay had removed 3rd place from the Briton. For a time, Plowman battled hard with the Frenchman, but Vernay had the advantage and used it wisely.
Whatever about holding Plowman off, Vernay was not going to able to catch the leading pair. As the race moved into its second-third, the Championship leader was three seconds behind Hinchcliffe who was in turn a further 3.2 seconds shy of Mann.
Behind the leading trio, Adrian Campos Jr was on a charge after running 8th early on, the Spaniard took positions from Gustavo Yacaman (lap 17), Dan Clarke (lap 28), Charlie Kimball (lap 36), before finally forcing his way into the top four with decisive move of Plowman (lap 37). Kimball had himself moved up a few spots during the course of the race – overtakes on Brandon Wagner (lap 16) and Plowman saw the American run in the top five.
‘Speedy’ Dan Clarke had opposing fortunes – after a good early race in 5th spot, Clarke dropped down the order and landed in 10th place by the 40th lap. With only Barbosa behind him (by a clear lap), it would be where Clarke remained for the duration.
By the 50 lap distance, Mann now had a 4.8 second advantage over Hinchcliffe and only a dramatic error or a yellow flag could possibly stop her progress – neither would come.
While there may have been no race for the lead, there certainly was an ongoing fight for 3rd. Vernay – still holding on to that vital top 3, found himself in an increasingly tough battle with Campos Jr. For lap-after-lap, the Team Moore driver pushed Vernay, but couldn’t find an ideal spot anywhere, whether on the outside or inside line. As Mann’s lead grew to 5.8 seconds by lap 60, Vernay and Campos Jr were still only separated by 0.1 of-a-second across the line.
One man who was not being deterred was Gustavo Yacaman – after being passed by Campos Jr earlier in the race, the Cape Motorsports driver set his sights on Charlie Kimball, robbing him of 6th on lap 61, before taking 5th from Martin Plowman two tours later. What started out as a day with potential for Plowman had turned into something much more mediocre.
For Pippa Mann, it was perfect – with the completion of lap 67, the chequered flag waved and the Londoner picked up her first Firestone Indy Lights victory. It really were a wonderfully composed drive and showcased a dominance rarely seen on an oval nowadays.
Hinchcliffe came home a lonely 2nd nearly three seconds up on Vernay as 4th place man, Adrian Campos Jr ran out of laps. Vernay only has to show up at Homestead Miami Speedway in four weeks time to claim the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights title – he is now some 48 points clear of Hinchcliffe. Gustavo Yacaman and Charlie Kimball crossed the line in 5th and 6th respectively, with Plowman eventually securing 7th spot.
Brandon Wagner (8th) and Arie Luyendyk Jr (9th) finished on the lead lap a long way ahead of the lapped Dan Clarke (10th). Rodrigo Barbosa was the last of the runners in 11th position, three laps down.
Despite Hinchcliffe only having one finish outside the top-10 this season (St Petersburg), the Canadian has been unable to take as many race wins as Vernay and it is one of a number of things that has lost him the title. However, with Hinchcliffe, Vernay and Mann talking of potentially moving up to IndyCars next year, the fight will be on to grab the attention of owners one last time – Pippa Mann certainly did her bit today.
Race Rating: 4 out of 5
2010 Indy Lights Kentucky 100 (Round 12)
Pos Car Driver Lap Down Elapsed Time Avg Speed
1 11 Mann, Pippa 67 0.0000 00:34:04.7529 174.581 Running
2 2 Hinchcliffe, James 67 6.8372 00:34:11.5901 174.000 Running
3 7 Vernay, JK (R) 67 9.7137 00:34:14.4666 173.756 Running
4 22 Campos Jr, A. (R) 67 9.7924 00:34:14.5453 173.749 Running
5 10 Yacaman, Gustavo 67 13.9245 00:34:18.6774 173.401 Running
6 26 Kimball, Charlie 67 13.9735 00:34:18.7264 173.397 Running
7 27 Plowman, Martin 67 14.4538 00:34:19.2067 173.356 Running
8 32 Wagner, Brandon 67 23.5225 00:34:28.2754 172.596 Running
9 24 Luyendyk Jr, Arie 67 24.4884 00:34:29.2413 172.515 Running
10 40 Clarke, Dan (R) 66 1.1462 00:34:05.8991 171.879 Running
11 18 Barbosa, Rodrigo 64 3.0664 00:34:07.8193 166.515 Running
12 29 Herrington, Daniel 3 00:01:05.5822 162.483 Accident
13 49 Major, Philip (R) 3 00:00:31.4419 169.455 Accident
14 28 Wilson, Stefan (R) 3 00:00:31.8427 167.322 Accident
2010 Firestone Indy Lights Championship
1 JK Vernay Sam Schmidt Motorsports 479 points
2 James Hinchcliffe Team Moore Racing 431
3 Charlie Kimball AFS / Andretti-Autosport 371
4 Martin Plowman AFS / Andretti-Autosport 364
5 Sebastian Saavedra Bryan Herta Autosport 303
6 Dan Clarke Walker Racing 291
7 Pippa Mann Sam Schmidt Motorsports 282
8 Gustavo Yacaman Cape Motorsports 279