Industry Insights: Pippa Mann


Pippa Mann’s Shift Up Now focuses on one key component that enables success in motorsports: funding.

By any standard, Pippa Mann’s racing career, both inside and out of a race car, is successful. The London-born driver started her professional career in the British Formula Renault series in 2003 at age 20, and in 2009 moved over to American racing with the Indy Lights series. She scored her first Lights win in 2010, as well as three pole positions. The following year, she moved up to IndyCar, driving for Conquest Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan, and then Dale Coyne Racing until 2017. After a stint as a test driver in FIA Formula E, Mann has been active in European endurance racing with Giti Tire Motorsport, taking the SP8 class win at the 2021 24 Hours of Nürburgring. 

In addition to her career as a driver, Mann has built a business coaching drivers in the SRO America and IMSA GT4 series. Beyond that, she has taken the lead at Shift Up Now, an organization dedicated to securing funding for aspiring female racers. Funds raised from donations and sponsorships are used to award opportunities to racers who have the talent and drive to succeed in motorsports. This allows those racers access to more competitive equipment, seat time for testing and practice, and resources to help grow their careers. 

We found time in Mann’s hectic schedule to sit down and discuss Shift Up Now and how it differs from other programs designed to advance women’s careers in racing. 

PRI: Tell us about Shift Up Now. What’s the elevator pitch? 

Mann: The primary goal of Shift Up Now is to fund female athletes in motorsports.

PRI: Do you just arrange sponsorships, or are you also working to identify jobs for women other than as drivers?

Mann: That’s what Women in Motorsports North America (WIMNA) does, which is a different type of organization than Shift Up Now. WIMNA is a big organization that’s able to do everything. Shift Up Now is a very small organization that’s focusing on a very small part of the problem, which is funding female athletes in motorsport. We are really focused on the problems that are hitting our athletes, which literally is the funding to compete.

Pippa Mann, who leads Shift Up Now, has a successful career both in and out of race cars. Here she is in the No. 39 Clauson-Marshall Racing Driven2SaveLives Chevrolet at the 2019 Indianapolis 500.

PRI: Funding is the main challenge facing racing drivers regardless of who they are, but is it still harder for women?

Mann: Funding is an issue for all racing drivers regardless of where they’re from, who they are, absolutely. But when you look at the research into marketing spend and sponsorship spend and dollar spend, you’ll see there’s still a significant disparity. That’s where Shift Up Now is trying to persuade sponsors to step up to the plate to back women in motorsport equally. Our goal is not more, our goal is equal. 

PRI: You have had a substantial career as a driver and coach. What made you decide to come to this little organization and try to work on this now? You’re still driving actively, so why Shift Up Now and why now?

Mann: The simple answer is: because it’s important. Shift Up Now was just starting to find a foothold, and there was this group of athletes who were bringing a level of brand recognition, even though it was very small, back in 2020. It was around that time that the founder, an amateur racer named Lynn Kehoe, asked me to step up and take the reins or it was probably going to go away. Lynn had hit a lot of dead ends, a lot of roadblocks, as we all do. Those of us who were involved felt that we were on the cusp of something. So when Lynn asked me to take on running Shift Up Now, I said, “Okay, but if I’m going to do this, you have to let me relaunch this in a manner that I and the other racers feel makes sense.”

We understand this is the lunatics running the asylum, but if this is going to be us, we need to be allowed the freedom to try and go and do this in a way we think will work. In December of 2020, we relaunched Shift Up Now. That was when we added outside membership to the organization as a way of getting race fans involved in what we were doing. By adding a membership option for supporters, we’re trying to bring those people closer to us for the long term. Also, frankly, using that $100 a year membership fee. It’s not a ton of money, but $100 a year per person helps us run the business. Because I’m driving a lot of race cars and I’m incredibly lucky that I get to do that, but this isn’t making me massive amounts of personal wealth, nor do I have a huge amount of time available. 

For someone like me to be able to run Shift Up Now, it was imperative that it was able to wash its own face, pay for its own website, and pay for the PR help. Three years later, as we enter December of 2023 [Editor’s note: this interview took place at the beginning of December 2023], we’ve added Aaron Vogel as our president. So I am no longer a one-man-van running around with my hair on fire. There’s now two of us running around with our hair on fire instead of just me. 

Also, we have added Sarah Montgomery as a director of membership, and we’ve recently reinvested in new membership software, and we’ve relaunched that literally just last month. So now there’s three people running around with their hair on fire. 

Shift Up Now partnered with Yokohama Tire to put Ashley Freiberg in a full-time seat in the Porsche Sprint Challenge series. “We were able to watch Ashley go out there and win races and win the series championship in that car,” Pippa Mann said. “That was so incredibly cool to see!”

PRI: You’re investing in the organization’s public face and membership organization. Is that delivering results? 

Mann: Yes. We have a new platform that’s much more interactive. It really gives our members what they’ve been asking for. It’s aesthetically pleasing. As a result, we have more brands that are starting to join us as corporate members. They’re not really spending the kind of money that allows us to sponsor people in race cars yet, but they’re spending some money to show their support for us, and they’re providing benefits of various types to our members. I think our members will find that fantastic, and we hope it will attract more members because frankly, the bigger Shift Up Now has gotten, of course the more money it takes to run the thing.

PRI: What happens when someone joins your organization? What do they get for their money? 

Mann: Members get access to online events. For example, tonight we have what’s called a fan forum. Callies Performance is a sponsor of that, so it’s the fan forum presented by Callies, and we have around 20 of our members who are coming via Zoom to talk to me, Sarah Montgomery, Ashley Freiberg, and Sabré Cook directly. We’ve started doing these monthly giveaways for our members. The first two are going to be signed items, and then next year we have some fairly cool giveaways that I can’t talk about quite yet because it hasn’t been announced, but that’s going to be a lot of fun. 

For the members who are aspiring racers, we have educational webinars. Next year we’re going to do one of those per quarter. So one fan forum and one educational webinar per quarter, and it’s going to be on topics that we think will interest our audience. Right now, Sabré Cook is going to be doing a webinar about the benefits of iRacing, why she believes it’s helpful, why she believes young drivers should do it, and how it helps her. We have a partnership with PitFit, renowned for training race car drivers in Indianapolis. They are going to continue our “train the race car driver” series. We have three of our four educational webinars scheduled. Basically, there’s one online event per month. Also, every month our director, Sarah Montgomery, is going to be reaching out to our members and sending information just to them.

We also have discounts from several brands inside our membership portal. Bell Helmets, for example, gives all of our members a discount. Our members get benefits from Sabelt, and we’re adding more brands that want to be involved with that. Our members are starting to get more and more back from being part of our journey and working with us and supporting us. We hope we’re creating a two-way street because that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to make these core supporters feel involved and engaged and like they really are part of this. Without them there’s no way I could have taken on running Shift Up Now.

Among the grants Shift Up Now provides is money “for extra coaching on the weekends” for women racers who “found enough money to get to the race track but can’t actually afford a coach,” Pippa Mann said. “Things like that are really important.” Mann knows from firsthand experience, as she coaches drivers in the SRO America and IMSA GT4 series.

PRI: Have you had any particular success where you sponsored someone, and they won a championship, or you were able to achieve something important for someone in their career?

Mann: The person we have to talk about is Ashley Freiberg. One of our biggest successes was partnering with Yokohama Tire this year to help Ashley return to a full-time seat in a race car in the Porsche Sprint Challenge series. Yokohama’s motorsport manager reached out to me, and we were able to put a deal together where Yokohama was the biggest part of the deal, but they wanted Shift Up Now to appear as the title sponsor in Ashley’s campaign. We were able to watch Ashley go out there and win races and win the series championship in that car. That was so incredibly cool to see! 

Every time we’re able to connect our racers with brands that want to support them and bring real dollar amounts to the table is a massive victory. While we have been smaller so far, hopefully you’re going to see several more brands added next year. This year we added the support of Yokohama through Ashley, and next year our partnership with Yokohama is expanding a little bit more. We have started to get some of our racers featured on TV this year, so you’re going to start to see more content about our racers reaching more audiences. As we both know, that’s not immediate financial help, but when you are providing the sponsors with another avenue for exposure and you are putting them in front of a bigger audience, that helps drive the wheel forward.

PRI: Our readership at PRI is people who are in the business of motorsports. Is there anything that they can do to help women drivers in your context?

Mann: We’ve seen teams investing in female talent such as Hannah Grisham. That gave her the opportunity to race and win at the Heart of Racing Shootout in 2022. Then she’s gone on to score two pole positions in SRO Sprint X in 2023 and win twice with her teammate Rianna O’Meara-Hunt at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Team owners are realizing that if they invest in female talent, they could be investing in race-winning drivers. 

We also have the Shift Up Now Foundation, which is our 501(c)(3) non-profit, and it lives alongside the for-profit organization. So our for-profit organization deals in all sorts of traditional partnerships, sponsorships, it has our membership, we do social media campaigns for people. However, our foundation can operate in a slightly different space because of that tax deductible status. The mission is a little more complicated, but it pretty much comes down to the same thing. The mission is to help fund female athletes in a sport where they are still currently underrepresented and underfunded. The missions line up, but it creates a different way to appeal to different companies, and to wealthy individuals. It allows us to work with race tracks or events that want to support a 501(c)(3) in motorsport because it makes sense to them. 

With the funds in the Foundation, we write sponsorship grants for athletes. In the same way a brand comes in and writes a sponsorship, now it’s a sponsorship grant, and it comes with deliverables that drivers have to provide in return for the funding, the same as any sponsorship would. It gives us another avenue to provide that support that so many of our athletes are missing.

To Pippa Mann, Shift Up Now focuses on “finding ways to make a difference, on helping people,” and making sure “that the funding is going where people need it to go.”

PRI: What sort of things are you granting money to do? 

Mann: Sometimes it’s the money to pay for extra coaching on weekends because she found enough money to get to the race track, but she can’t actually afford a coach. Things like that are really important. We had one driver this year who was using her teammate’s takeoff tires. She had new tires for qualifying and the races, but she was using the takeoffs for testing. So we are trying to make sure she has the money to have appropriate tires to use before qualifying. That’s where the Shift Up Now foundation focuses. We are not big enough yet to be a title sponsor. We would love to be, but we’re not there yet. We focus on finding ways to make a difference, on helping people, and that the funding is going where people need it to go.

PRI: We’ve been talking about putting money in at the front end. Is there anything that a track or a series could do as far as reducing barriers to entry for women racers? 

Mann: The whole point is we want to be treated as equals. No one at Shift Up Now is out there asking for something special. That said, I think IMSA’s Diversity Scholarship is fantastic. I love the fact that it’s open to all minorities in motorsport. I think it’s a fantastic idea, but I also think you have to be very careful because we are not asking for special treatment. We’re out here asking to be treated as equals because we believe that when you treat us as equals and we have equal opportunity and equal seat time and equal testing, we can compete as equals. All we’re asking for is the equal opportunity to either succeed or to fail, but to do so on our own merits.

PRI: We are always on the lookout for young people coming out of karting. How young is Shift Up Now prepared to go with its sponsorships and grants? Would you consider a 10-year-old girl working her way up in karting? 

Mann: We can’t do it right now because we’re still too small. If we spread ourselves any more thinly than we’re currently spread, nothing is going to happen. At the moment, our biggest priority is trying to push up, and then we want to reach down. We need to continue to push up first. However, being able to reach down is 100% on our radar. It’s on our athletes’ radars. There’s a way we can start in 2024, where those who want to be mentored can be paired with an athlete to learn. 

PRI: Where would you like Shift Up Now to be in 10 years’ time?

Mann: I’d love to see a Shift Up Now athlete competing in IndyCar and in NASCAR, IMSA, and SRO sports car racing. I would love us to have the financial ability to be active in all of those major series. And I would love us to have a robust junior athlete program that is reaching down to that transition from the kart to car space. I want to have a robust junior program that reaches down across all of these various disciplines and helps bring up the next generation of racers. That’s the big dream.

Stay Connected

Sign Up For The PRI eNewsletter to get the latest in racing industry news, special events, new product information and more directly to your inbox.