RACING driver Darren Manning was born in North Yorkshire, but now lives in the USA where he races in the IndyCar series. In the first of a series of columns, he writes exclusively for The Northern Echo website as he prepares to take part in one of the world's most famous motorsports events

"I love the Indianapolis 500, really.

The majority of our IndyCar Series races, it's two days to get in and get out. At Indy, we've got the whole month of May, or at least three weeks of it.

It's quite nice. Every day, every week has a new challenge whether you're working on qualifying or race setup.

From the first time into the pits off Turn Four to finding out how the car acts in race trim, you're on tender hooks the whole month.

We turned just 37 laps on our first day of practice Tuesday, and we lost precious track time due to rain-outs on both Wednesday and Thursday.

A.J. Foyt Enterprises is a one-car team. We have limited set-ups as it is, so any and all track time is extremely valuable. Losing days like this really hurts our preparation not only for Indy, but also for the rest of the year.

Since the two American open-wheel racing series combined, it's a hell of a lot more competitive. A lot of good drivers and good teams came over, so there's more competition for every spot. If you're just two or three miles an hour off the pole, you'll be way down in the field. Even getting in the top 22 of this 33-car grid will be difficult with all these new cars. So, there's a lot more competition, but I like it like that!

We've already figured out what direction we need to go, so as long as we get some running time in Friday, even on Saturday morning, we'll be all right for qualifying this weekend.

We could have gone a couple of miles faster with what we had Tuesday, so I'm feeling pretty comfortable that we can get in the top 11 during Pole Day qualifications on Saturday.

If there's anything I've learned about getting around this two-and-a-half-mile track, it's patience.

The Speedway is a difficult track.

The weather conditions are always unstable. Tuesday it was very hot and windy and now it's cold and rainy. The track changes a lot and it's a lot less forgiving than other tracks. You've got to give it a lot of respect.

It's difficult to learn how to get the best out of this track. Fortunately A.J. (Foyt, team owner) knows when it's good and bad and when to run and when not to run.

This is my second season with A.J., and we're still learning how we can be better as a team. It's just a long, slow process. We've got the same resources as everybody else, but the changes in development and driving style are just slower than some of the big teams. We each have to look within ourselves and figure out how to get the best of each other.

It's very light-hearted in our garage. A.J. is very colourful and he has lots of friends who go way back with him. They're always telling old Indy 500 race stories.

The mechanics are all Texans, so maybe it's a little bit more relaxed than other teams. It's just good fun!