Darren Manning is ready and waiting to make his Indy Racing League debut, having signed last week with the championship-winning Target Ganassi team to partner Scott Dixon in 2004.

Interviewed by the oval-only series weekly news conference, Manning admitted that he could not wait to get out and test the team's G-Force-Toyota - and was already looking forward to causing a few shocks when racing begins next spring.

"I know what I can do with a lot less than what I have got here at my disposal, so I am looking forward to getting out there and causing a few upsets," the Briton said, "Maybe they are not upsets, I don't know - I don't know what you guys are thinking you are going to get from me - but I am confident and just looking forward to winning races."

Asked what his goals were for 2004, the ever-cheerful Manning revealed hard targets for himself.

"Hopefully, a lot of race wins and maybe even the championship," he laughed, "Definitely the Indianapolis 500 anyway - I have got that one pencilled in already...."

Manning received the offer to partner new IRL champion Dixon following the tragic accident that claimed the life of American Tony Renna, and he is not quick to lose sight of the fact.

"[There were] a lot of mixed feelings really," he admitted when asked about his reaction to getting the call from team boss Chip Ganassi, "We had talked to Chip before they signed Tony - I think I was one of the guys on the short list alongside Tony - so I probably knew it was coming up, that the call was going to be coming after the unfortunate accident.

"There was a lot of excitement that I was going to get the drive, and a lot of sorrow too. I didn't really know what I was feeling, you know - I was probably going to get offered the drive in circumstances I had never come across before. But everybody has been very supportive, and I want to be as supportive as possible to all Tony's family and friends. Obviously, I will be racing in Tony's memory as well. I think that's all I can say on that matter really."

Manning also acknowledged the current malaise affecting the CART series, in which he shone before accepting Ganassi's offer.

"This sport is very money-oriented with regards to the drives and the teams keeping running and keeping mechanics on, and, unfortunately for Derrick [Walker], he doesn't have a big team sponsor," he said of his former employer, "[2003] was funded primarily by CART and a few sponsors that Derrick picked up along the way.

"It's a shame. I had a fantastic year with them. They are great bunch of guys I had working on my car. Even though it was a small, skeleton crew, they worked twice as hard to make up for that, and it showed. We were fastest practically every time out in pit-stops, and they'd walk on fire for me and likewise me for them. It's a shame that things are a bit uncertain. They haven't got anybody signed up yet for next year, and are not really sure what their future is."

The full transcript of the Darren Manning interview can be found in the IRL Features section of this website

 

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