Darren Manning began his career in karting at the age of ten and competed in the British, European, and World Karting championships on a professional level between 1986 and 1991.
In 1992, he raced in the Brands Hatch Formula First winter series with SpeedSport and finished second overall with two wins, three fastest laps, and one pole position. Manning's extraordinary start impressed team boss Mike O'Brien and in 1993 Manning progressed to the Formula Vauxhall Championship with SpeedSport. He finished second overall in the championship with three wins.
1993 also saw Manning competing in the winter series, finishing second again. Soon he was receiving the recognition he deserved, becoming a finalist in the McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the year awards. Manning raced in the Formula Vauxhall series for the next two seasons, claiming 14 podiums, three poles and a new lap record at Snetterton. It became evident that Manning was ready to move up to the ranks of the British Formula three championships. In his first season in F3 in 1996, Manning finished seventh overall, including an impressive win at the British Grand Prix support race at Silverstone. Winning the Graham Hill trophy, he remained in F3 for the 1997 season.
Due to a limited budget, Manning only competed in selected F3 races in 1998 but once again managed to win at the British Grand Prix support race at Silverstone. He also won at Snetterton prior to making his All Japan F3 debut. Manning finished third at Sendai Hiland, he also competed in the European F3 championship and the infamous Macau Grand Prix, finishing fifth and setting a new lap record.
In 1999 Manning competed in the All Japan F3 championship, winning with six consecutive victories. He dominated the Macau Grand Prix, leading from start to finish from pole position. Leading every lap and setting yet another lap record, he became the first man to achieve the “perfect” win since Ayrton Senna. Manning went on to win the Korean Grand Prix setting the fastest lap along the way.
BAR Honda F1 team signed Manning up for the 2000 season as a test driver, a relationship that continued into the 2002 season. Manning also raced with the Arden International F3000 team in 2000, finishing eighth overall in the championship with one pole position, two podium finishes and several top-10 finishes. Manning continued to test for BAR Honda in 2001 as well as competing in the F3000 championship with Arden again, finishing tenth overall with several top-six qualifying positions, one podium and several top-six finishes.
He continued his F1 testing in 2002, and made his Champ Car debut in Rockingham England. Manning led 18 laps en route to a ninth-place finish. In 2003, Manning competed full time in the CART series and scored his best finish of the season in the finale at Australia, coming home second. Manning was signed by Target Chip Ganassi Racing in November 2003 to pilot the No. 10 Toyota Panoz G-Force.
Darren Manning lived up to his promise as a talented driver and quick study in his debut season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and the Indy Racing League. His ability to adapt quickly was evident from the start of the year as he finished two of the season’s first three races in the top-five. In addition, his ability to race at a consistently high level helped him finish the 2004 season ranked eleventh in the driver standings, only one spot behind team-mate and 2003 IRL Champion Scott Dixon.
Darren’s fast start was equalled by a strong finish despite missing the final two races of the season due to injury. All but two of his eight top-10 finishes, including four top-five finishes, came within the first three and last five races of the season. Having missed out on competing in the last two races the 29-year-old Briton still finished the season with an eleventh place ranking.
“No matter where he has raced, Darren has found success,” said team owner, Chip Ganassi. “He is a true professional that picks up nuances very quickly. His confidence rubs off on everyone around him and I’m confident he’s going to have a big season.”