Friday, May 26, 2017

Katherine Legge: The Last, So Far

I didn't set out to name my heroine after Katherine Legge (Kate Reilly came to me as Kate, and later I specified her full name as Katherine), but I did steal one of Legge's career accomplishments for my fictional driver's resume. (Sorry/not sorry?)

Legge's early career was definitely on an open-wheel trajectory. She started in karts, then moved to the British Formula Ford Championship, British Formula Renault, British Formula 3, and British and North American Formula Renault 2000. Along the way, she was the first woman to achieve a pole position in Formula Ford, she set a new lap record on her way to a pole in Formula Renault, and she was the first woman to be named a "Rising Star" by the British Racing Drivers Club.

In 2005, she joined the Toyota Atlantics Championship where she had a breakout year, winning three races—including her first race ever in Atlantics, which made her the first woman to win a major open-wheel race. Plus she finished on the podium five times and placed third in the championship as a rookie. In 2006, she moved up to ChampCar where she was the first woman to compete in the series full time and placed sixth in her first ever oval race.

I have to believe it was the reunification of IndyCar that left Legge without an open-wheel ride in 2008, but she kept racing anyway, spending the next three years as an Audi factory works driver racing DTM (in Germany). By 2012, it was back to the U.S. for a season in IndyCar with Dragon Racing and her first start in the Indy 500. Her only other Indy start was in 2013 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. In 2014, she raced in the new Formula E series.

Legge has been linked to a new open-wheel team for the last two years...which has never actually materialized. Grace Autorsport is/was to be an all-female endeavor (or at least as much as possible), and there was a lot of enthusiasm around it, but there were reports of trouble securing a car in 2016, and after that it seems to have faded away. Not that Legge was sitting around.

Legge said she continuously asks herself if her maniacal racing focus “is worth it” and “what am I doing this for?”

So far the answers remain “yes,” and “it’s in my blood.”
(from Pressdog's interview with Katherine in 2013)

When she couldn't find open-wheel rides, she kept busy with sportscars, spending three years as a driver for the Panoz DeltaWing and just this year signing with Michael Shank Racing to drive an Acura in the IMSA Weathertech series. She also keeps busy promoting females in racing, as the STEM ambassador for Girl Scouts and as a member of the Women in Motorsport Commission of the FiA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile).

I've always liked Legge. I met her once at Road Atlanta during a Petit Le Mans weekend, and she was quiet, genuine, and positive. My impression (and that of others I know, as well) is that she's an introvert with a mission to do the thing she loves—I can relate to that, even if mine isn't the same as hers. Ultimately, Legge is a class act, and I think plenty of fans would love to see her back in the 500 again.

(Photo from katherinelegge.com.)

1 comment:

  1. She's fast and always quite nice with the fans. Been watching/rooting for her since her time in Atlantic's and think she just goes from strength to strength. Was sad to see her out of open wheel, but have enjoyed watching her in sports cars just as much.

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