Yesterday one of the biggest crashes in Indy car race history occurred in Las Vegas at the Indy 300, resulting in the tragic loss of driver Dan Wheldon's life. In addition to Wheldon, two other drivers were brought to the hospital: JR Hildebrand and Pippa Mann.
Seeing Pippa Mann's name in the headlines is a reminder that there are now a handful of women who are competing at elite levels, racing cars — and racing them well. Ironic, given that there are still countries (looking at you, Saudi Arabia) where women can't drive at all, and risk serious punishment if they post YouTube videos of themselves doing so.
If you Google "female race car drivers," you mostly get things like "Top 10 Hottest" as opposed to "Top 12 Best." Women like Pippa Mann deserve more respect than being ogled as eye-candy. She is a damn good driver. In her short US racing career, she's managed to attain several female firsts: In 2010, she was the first female to capture a pole position at any Indy race, earning herself a place in racing history books. While Pippa started her racing career in England, she recently left Europe, citing the negative attitudes there towards female drivers.
"I had one test with a team, and it was a pretty good test," the Briton recalls. "They turned around afterwards and said, 'you know what, we like what you did in the car and you did a good job.' But the team owner looked me up and down and said: 'I don't really want a girl on my team. I don't like the fact that you dress like a girl, that you wear flip-flops and big toenails, and wear those dangly things from your ears."
Pippa declined that offer, hopefully with a few obscene gestures and choice words. Now she's racing stateside, and pending her recovery, looking at a record-setting career.