INDIANAPOLIS -- Here comes another British Invasion.
Four decades after one British group changed the music industry
in America, a new version of the Fab Four is hoping to conquer the
American open-wheel circuit.
Dario Franchitti, Dan Wheldon, Mark Taylor and Darren Manning
already have one record -- most British Isle drivers to start a race at
the Indianapolis 500 -- and a camaraderie that is tough to match.
All they need now is a name.
"We're starting to work out which of the Beatles we are,''
joked Wheldon, who at 25 is too young to remember all four members
of the original group. "But we know Darren has the Beatles
Three of the four drivers have already become major players in
Indy car racing despite growing up in Formula One country.
Wheldon, the series' points leader, and Franchitti (who is from Scotland) are teammates for Michael Andretti and will start alongside pole-winner Buddy
Rice on the front row Sunday. Taylor, a 26-year-old rookie with
Panther Racing, will start 14th. Manning, driving for Chip Ganassi,
qualified 15th and is fourth in the points standings after three
The last time three British drivers started the Indy 500 was
1967. It's happened two other times, in 1926 and 1966.
"I think it's an invasion when you win,'' said the 31-year-old
Franchitti, the oldest of the four. "I definitely enjoy the
history of Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart and what those guys have
done over here, and I'd like to be part of it.''
Achieving that will require more than catchy phrases.
Only one driver, Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000, has won from the
front row since 1998. With Taylor and Manning both making their
first Indy start, the trend is even tougher. Only eight rookies
have won in the 87-race history.
"It's just not a very forgiving place,'' Taylor said. "It's
part of the learning curve and you have to go through it once.''
The Brits have a long history of success in Indianapolis,
including wins by English drivers George Robson (1946) and Graham
Hill (1966). Clark, a Scotsman, also won the race in 1965.
Clark and Stewart, as well as Nigel Mansell, all earned rookie
of the year honors in their first starts at Indianapolis.
It seems no matter what this year's class does, though, it
cannot escape the comparisons with John Lennon, Paul McCartney,
George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
What they've come up with so far is this: Taylor, of London, is
the quiet one, while Wheldon, of Emberton, is the rebel.
Franchitti, who is from Edinburgh, Scotland, is the elder statesman, and Manning,
of North Yorkshire, is the lookalike.
On Tuesday, a photographer at Indianapolis Motor Speedway took a
publicity shot of the four strutting across the yard of bricks in
their driver's suits. It was reminiscent of an old album cover,
with Taylor, the youngest of the four, even going barefoot.
"I've absolutely got the hairdo,'' Manning joked. "Not the
Despite already making history by qualifying a record number of
Brits, this group isn't content. The drivers want this invasion to
include a drive into Indianapolis' Victory Lane -- and to cement
their place in the hearts and minds of American fans with a win at
America's biggest race.
Just like a certain group did after appearing on "The Ed
Sullivan Show'' in 1964.
"We're still getting extra publicity out of it,'' Manning said.
"They took over America pretty well, we'd like to do that, too.''