Darren Manning’s IndyCar drive with Foyt Enterprises is in danger after his retirement from the Iowa Corn Indy 250 due to exhaustion led to a pitlane row between driver and boss.
The Englishman gained places in the early laps but by lap 15 he’d lost them again so team owner and veteran racer AJ Foyt radioed to find out what the problem was.
He was not expecting the answer he received: “I asked him what was wrong and he radioed in that he was ‘knackered already’ from the steering being too heavy,” he wrote on his team’s website.
Manning’s eventual exit was tactfully listed as being caused by a steering problem. This was true, in so much as a newly-fitted seat had left him too far from the steering wheel, tiring his arms beyond endurance.
But in the heat of raceday afternoon, Foyt had strong words to say about his driver’s fitness. “I was not happy – I said some things in anger,” he recalled.
With time to reflect, the issue with the seat position became clear and it seems to have been accepted that Manning does not have a problem with his conditioning.
But the focus of the team’s discontent with their driver then shifted to poor communications.
Foyt wrote: “We’ve talked since then and I think both of us have a better appreciation of the situation. Darren thinks the new seat he had made may have been the biggest factor as it put him too far away from the steering wheel. Try holding your arms out straight and turning, then put some weight in your hands. It’s tough for anyone.
“But, if we’d known earlier that it was an issue, we could have fixed it. If we don’t know it’s a problem, how can we fix it? He’s asked for some other adjustments that he wants that we’ll put into place as well.”
Ominously for Manning’s long-term future with the team, that doesn’t seem to be the end of the matter: “He is going to make some adjustments on his part too. There will be no more excuses on his part or ours.”
Business conflicts have kept Foyt from the race this weekend so his son, team director Larry Foyt, will run the show instead. Interviewed live during pre-qualifying practice, he refused to say that Manning’s drive was safe for the rest of the season.
“We like Darren – but we can’t be parking race cars, either,” he said.
One possibility for a replacement should Manning be dismissed is John Andretti, who has been racing on a weekend-by-weekend basis for Roth Racing instead of Jay Howard. Andretti is known not have an agreement in place with Roth beyond this weekend.
Foyt Enterprises also ran a second car in the Indy 500, piloted by Firestone Indy Lights driver
Simmons crashed out of the race but Manning, whose results this year have been mixed, scored a top-10 finish and was praised by Foyt: “Manning gave no quarter and was given none. It may have cost him a top five finish, but the fact was he was charging forward from the drop of the green flag.”
Clearly, the pressure is on Manning to show some more of that fighting spirit. Foyt concluded his website column by writing: “I expect that the race at Richmond International Raceway this weekend will be a better showing for the entire ABC Supply team.
“It has to be.”