Mann only woman on Indy 500 grid this year

Sat May 24, 2014 5:37pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - After years of building up a presence at the Indianapolis 500 there will be a noticeable lack of girl power when the green flag drops at the Brickyard on Sunday.

At one time, the only females on starting grids were the glamorous models holding placards with drivers' names on them, but last year there were four women in last year's 33-car field at the Indianapolis 500.

But on Sunday when Pippa Mann takes the command to "start your engines," the Briton will be waving the female flag alone.

"It's actually a little strange, I'm used to seeing a few other women out here," said Mann, who will be lining up in her third Indy 500. "I don't notice it when I'm out in the car but I do when I look around the garage. It feels a little odd to be just me."

Women have been part of every Indy 500 discussion since 2005 when Danica Patrick burst onto the IndyCar scene claiming rookie of the year honors after she led the race and finished fourth.

But Patrick, once the darling of IndyCar and the series' marketing dynamo, has taken her considerable sponsorship and high-profile to NASCAR.

Swiss Simona de Silvestro, who tried to fill the void when Patrick jumped ship, has also moved on testing for Sauber and is poised to join Formula One while Brazil's Ana Beatriz, Britain's Katherine Legge and Venezuelan Milka Dunno have fallen by the wayside given a lack of results and sponsorship.

It is that shortage of funding, not ability, that accounts for the drop-off in women drivers, according to Mann.   Continued...

May 17, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar Series driver Pippa Mann poses for the traditional photo with his car after qualifying for the 2014 Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports