Leadership

Pippa Mann in the fast lane

Race car driver Pippa Mann
John Sommers II | Reuters
Race car driver Pippa Mann

As the 100th annual Indianapolis 500 kicks off this weekend, you may notice an unusual sight. A bright pink car that is being driven by a woman.

That woman is Pippa Mann, she's the only female driver entered in the Indianapolis 500, and this will be her fifth time participating in the annual race.

"We're aiming to be top 10 or top 15 and then have a really clean run on race day," Mann tells CNBC.

The 32-year-old British driver first got her start as a teenager racing go-karts, but never imagined it could become a full-time career.

Mann was the eighth woman in history and the first British female to start the 500-mile race.

In addition to refining her racing abilities, Mann says the biggest skill she's learned is the importance of public relations and marketing skills.

"Those skills have become more and more important. If I'm not able to go out there and put together a budget and sponsors who want to support me and our program — then I'm not able to get in a car," she said.

The title sponsor of Mann's pink car is a sponsor you may not be accustomed to seeing on the racetrack. Mann is sponsored by the world's largest breast cancer organization, the Susan G. Komen foundation.

"Everyone is chasing those same dollars with those traditional brands," she said. "When you think outside the box and you want to do something different, you become a more unique proposition."

Mann has also sought out health-oriented companies as sponsors, bringing names like Genetic Technologies into a sponsorship arena they may not have thought was a fit for their product.

"So many cancer survivors and people who have lost someone have come to find me and told me they love what we're doing," she said.

Mann's not just inspiring cancer survivors but a new generation of girls who will grow up seeing a woman in the fast lane.

"Parents can now tell their daughters, 'That is a girl driving that pink car.' It opens up a whole new world."

Mann says when it comes to being a woman behind the wheel, she's had to work hard, going to the gym to make sure she's physically strong enough to operate the wheel. IndyCars don't have power steering.

But at the end of the day, her gender isn't such a big deal.

"The car can't tell if it's a boy or a girl driving ... all it cares about is the inputs you make on the steering wheel," said Mann.