After forging an early career on horseback, Tania Mann always sought to trade her pursuits for horses of a different kind. Despite being relatively new to the motorsport game, the Australian has thrown herself into the most competitive series UK categories available – the Carrera Cup GB. But with a cool head and advice from British luminaries sush as BTCC champion Tim Harvey, Tania has acquitted herself well amongst seasoned competitors. Tania kindly found some time to speak with us about her 2012 season.
You’ve had an impressive start to the ProAm2 Carrera Cup GB series this year, particularly at Donington where you came away with two wins, two fastest laps and were knocking on the door of the top 10. After an early surge do you feel yourself and SIBSport have been a bit unlucky in the second-half of the season?
Thank you for your positive comment! Yes the season start was brilliant and given the circumstances I couldn’t have been happier with my performance. I only had budget for a few tests in a GT3 Cup car using old rubber before my first race weekend at Brands Hatch so it was an amazing feeling to go out and secure a double pole. Then to follow it up with the performance at Donington really made me feel like I deserved to be on the grid for the season ahead.
Unfortunately a lack of budget not only limits testing time but it also induces the bad luck you suggest. This year I’ve relied on second hand tyres, brake disks, drive shafts and basically any part which can be purchased second hand. And in doing this it renders your set-up liable to fail at any time since I’m basically purchasing these items from team mates who deem them at the point where failure is more likely to occur! So it’s a frustrating predicament.
I’ve had two spins this year induced by drive shaft failure and my pace compromised due to lack of new tyres. Where some competitors might use up to 5-7 sets on a race weekend, I’ve had to use 1. Anyone who understands the nature of these cars will appreciate it’s impossible to go quick without a good supply of rubber. But I try not to focus on the negatives and be grateful for any opportunity I have to get out in my Cup car as I love every minute behind the wheel! It’s always guaranteed to put a huge smile on my face.
In some respects your main competitor, Will Goff has almost had a reversal of your fortunes; with a patchy start and strong later performances. Do you think there’s an opportunity to bridge the gap before series end?
I guess you could say Goff has had a reversal of my luck. He’s been doing really well this season but I definitely felt a strong contender to bridge the gap and win the Championship in class this year. But sadly due to my final sponsor pulling out I’m now missing the opportunity to finish the last two rounds. It’s a tremendous shame and I can’t begin to describe my frustration at missing the opportunity to battle against him for the title. Especially since I think I’ve out qualified him every round so I know I’m competitive.
Your teenage years involved a lot of horse riding. A friend of mine is an experienced Equestrian and tells me the technique of looking as far ahead as possible on a course is very similar to looking through a corner on a racetrack. Have you developed or carried over any approaches between the two disciplines yourself?
This is a very interesting question and I think it certainly holds some merit. Once when I had some motorbike coaching they commented that I looked well ahead. Also when in a racing car simulator which had a device for reading your eye position I was also told I naturally looked ahead. I’m certainly not an expert on the matter but intuitively and given the feedback I’ve received, I think it would be fair to say there certainly are some transferable skills from the discipline of horse riding which I subconsciously employ when driving.
Jumping from track days to the Lotus Cup in the UK is a big step in itself and despite this you had some strong point-scoring rounds in your first competitive season. What kind of adjustments did you have to make acclimatising to the 997?
My racing career has been so short lived that my learning curve has been exponential and I’m constantly acclimatising to the next step up. Many people may not realise but I did about 10 track days before I raced my Lotus. And I only completed enough races in the Lotus to qualify for the requisite National A licence for the Porsche Carrera Cup! So I’ve literally stepped into this incredible series on the bare minimum to qualify to get onto the grid.
I thrive on challenging myself. I’m passionate, dedicated and no stranger to hard work and commitment. And since car racing is my number one passion in life I actually relish the challenge it presents to me because I love and cherish every moment I spend in a racing car out on track.
Though that said acclimatising to the 997 has been tough – I won’t deny it! They are so powerful and with slicks incredibly quick. It’s not only learning to drive one of these cars on the limit on circuits I’m unfamiliar with but also contending with the induced g-forces as well as the physical exertion required to drive such a powerful car. Not to mention the quicker a car can navigate a circuit the quicker you approach each corner so there is less time to think and react. This means they are even more mentally demanding than slower cars. I’ve also had to learn a huge amount about car set-up and understanding data. I love working with data engineers when testing and racing and this has certainly been one invaluable element that has helped me to progress with my driving.
Australian Top Fuel driver, Tony de Felice has made a remarkable adaptation to driving the Ferrari 458 despite advice that he should start slow and progress through the ranks. Alan Simonson disagrees and says you should buy the car you want to race. What’s your take on this?
I think Alan’s advice sounds great! But then I would do since that’s exactly what I’ve done! I’d wanted to race all my life and as long as I can remember I’ve had an insatiable need for speed and despite never having visited a race track I always wanted to race a car ‘like you saw on the telly’. It wasn’t till I came to the UK to forge a career in investment banking that I could finally afford to get out onto a track. I literally googled on the internet ‘how to drive on a race track’ and took things from there as I had no idea about the racing or even tracking scene. And whilst I’ve been grateful for the advice people have given me along the way, I ignored all suggestions that I should track a few years for experience before considering to race! I felt keen for the challenge and just wanted to ‘go for it’ and learn as I went along. I didn’t mind that I’d hardly driven a car on the limit, had never driven a Lotus and wasn’t familiar with any of the circuits I was about to race at. And this was similar for my perhaps premature move to the GT3 Cup car. I thought ‘why drive a Lotus Elise if I can drive a phenomenal GT3?!… Of course sometimes you have to be practical, and if someone were to step into a category of car which they are not skilful enough to drive in a manner which is safe to themselves and others on circuit, then perhaps the advice should be to work their way up more gradually.
Have you set out a plan for where you want to be in motorsport in the next few years or are you taking it as it comes?
I haven’t specifically set out a plan but I would love the opportunity to continue to race in a GT3 in the Porsche Carrera Cup, whether in the UK or somewhere else in the world. For example if I had the budget, I’d love to do the Carrera Cup Asia over (British) winter and the Carrera Cup Australia next year as well as the Carrera Cup GB.
With sponsorship being fought over so hard in the UK at the moment, do you think your business experience and company Marque One Consulting has given you an edge over other drivers? Do you think projects like Tania Mann Motorsport will become the norm for drivers wanting to gain corporate backing in the future?
Sponsorship acquisition is certainly tough! Even with my degrees (Mathematics, Finance and Computer Science), Finance Post Grad study and business experience managing my company Marque One Consulting (working for some of the world’s top Investment Banks), I still find it incredibly hard. It’s all about demonstrating to your potential business partners that you can generate genuine business benefits and understand the need for setting targets to measure the benefits and work with them during the year to ensure they are met. Without a doubt my business experience certainly helps with all these elements.
And this is why I set up Tania Mann Motorsport. I felt it important to establish a viable motorsport based business which could cater for the potential needs of my business partners and assist in the generation of business benefits.
Outside of motorsport, your varied interests include music production. This seems to be common amongst quite a few drivers; most notable Jaime Alquesuari. Do you think having a balance of interests is important for focus or is it up to the individual?
I love to challenge my mind. I’m addicted to hard work and constantly striving to better myself. I’m a dedicated and passionate person and when I put my mind to it, I will work tirelessly to achieve a goal. I guess this is why I’ve had some successes in other areas of my life from my companies to my music career and this work ethic and ability to apply one’s self has transferred to my racing career. Though whether this is necessary for everyone is debatable. I think all individuals have their own methods and motivations in life. So what might be inspirational or exciting to me might be viewed as boring or a waste of time by the next person!
So what’s next for Tania Mann? A progression through to the Carrera Cup GB ranks or do you want to sample different machinery?
To be honest I relish any time spent in a racing car on a racing circuit. I just love driving and racing and also constantly improving my skills behind the wheel. So I would welcome the opportunity to race in any car on any track or series in the world. But it would be very special to race a GT3 in different series around the world for sure.
Tania, thanks for speaking with The Road From Rouen!
You’re welcome. Many thanks for your time.