Panther Racing added a second driver to its 2009 Firestone Indy Lights line-up - and a second Briton to boot - when it announced on Friday that current World Series by Renault driver Pippa Mann would join Matin Plowman in an all-rookie squad.
Mann will join the former F3 Euroseries driver as part of Panther's 'developmental line-up', which builds on a 2008 campaign in which John Barnes' squad ran a multiple-car assault, ironically including another british driver, Dillon Battistini, who, despite his lack of oval experience took four race wins.
In total, Panther ranks second all-time in Indy Lights/Indy Pro Series victories behind rival Sam Schmidt Motorsports. In 58 starts, the team, which also has frontrunning IndyCar Series interests, has amassed 13 wins, seven pole positions, 29 top five and 35 top ten finishes, and Barnes is confident that both Mann and Plowman can add to that record.
“Pippa is another tremendous addition to our developmental programme,” he explained, “We feel like she has a lot of room to grow and we're going to give her all the tools she needs to continue the success Panther has had with its Indy Lights programme. Pippa and Martin give us two dynamic and talented drivers for next season, and we'll see how the rest of the off-season plays out in terms of expanding our Indy Lights programme even further.”
The Indy Lights series is enjoying a period of growth, and Mann - the first female to score a point in World Series history - will not be the first female driver to try her luck in the IndyCar feeder, with Ana Beatriz setting the bar high with race wins and podiums in 2008, and other Europeans such as Cyndie Allemenn also being attracted across the Atlantic.
“I'm extremely excited to be joining Panther Racing,” Mann admitted, "Having spent time with them over the summer, I am very impressed with the way in which the entire team works and I look forward to being a part of their 2009 Firestone Indy Lights campaign.
"Much of this is going to be new to me – especially racing on ovals – but I'm ready for the challenge and know that I'll be surrounded by a wealth of experience from which I can learn. It's a truly fantastic opportunity for me and I'm very grateful to everyone who has made this possible. I cannot wait to get started.”
The former FRenault driver will honour her World Series by Renault commitments for the remainder of 2008, starting this weekend at Estoril with the penultimate round of the season.