2022 U18 Women's Worlds: Game schedule, how to watch, results and scores (2023)

On the eve of qualifying for the 107th Indianapolis 500, British professional race car driver Katherine Legge has her sights set on making her third start in the iconic American race. If she does qualify for one of the coveted 33 spots in the grid (34 teams are attempting to qualify), Legge also will become the first woman to do so since Simona De Silvestro made her sixth start at Indy in 2021.

The 42-year-old Brit made headlines in February when Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) announced she would drive the team’s No. 44 Dallara-Honda for the race, marking Legge’s first Indy start since 2013. Last year’s Indy 500 field was notably absent for the second time in three years. The 2020 race was the first contest without at least one woman in the field since 1999.

Legge, whose team recently finished fourth in class at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, is one of just nine women to have raced in the Indy 500, which is set for May 28 on NBC. She currently competes fulltime in an Acura NSX GT3 for Gradient Racing in the GTD class in International Motor Sport Association (IMSA) racing. Her resume includes experience in Formula 3, Formula Renault, Formula 1 test, ChampCar, IndyCar, A1 Grand Prix, Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM), Formula E and sports car racing. In two previous starts at the Indy 500, Legge finished 22nd in 2012 (starting 30th) and 26th in 2013 (starting 33rd).

On Her Turf sat down with Legge during her leadup to this weekend’s qualifying to talk about her decision to race in this year’s Indy 500, her preparation and what she hopes to achieve in her third appearance at The Brickyard.

RELATED: How to watch Indy 500 qualifying this weekend on NBC and Peacock

This Q+A has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

On Her Turf: Let’s start by talking about your decision to compete at the Indy 500 for the first time in 10 years. Can you talk a little bit about your decision and what went into it?

Katherine Legge: I think it was a relatively easy decision, honestly, because for the last 10 years I’ve been trying to get another shot at Indy with a good car, with a good team and with a chance of winning it. I’ve done it twice — as you said the last one a decade ago, and the first one a year before that. The first time I did it was not a great situation, but the second year, I had a great car and a great opportunity. So I wanted to recreate that and get another really good opportunity to go out there and have a chance of winning the thing.

OHT: You said your first appearance at Indy was not a great experience. Is there anything more about it that you could share?

Legge: It was a disaster. It was my first year back in IndyCar after having gone back to Europe to race for a while. The team was using Lotus engines and the Lotus engine was quite significantly down on power compared to Honda and to Chevy. And so when we started practicing… we were just being lapped, once every 10 laps, so it’s not worth doing. They tried to get another engine manufacturer to support us and in the end, we missed out on literally all the testing. The second year was great, but I didn’t have any testing. … It was a great car and we did qualify, we put it in the field, and I’ve been chasing that high ever since, I guess you could say.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing have given me the opportunity this year to have a significant amount of testing. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been so well prepared for anything in my life. So that’s a really nice feeling because it gives you a level of confidence and a level of calm going in.

OHT: Why was Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing the right fit this year?

Legge: I have raced for the team before. As far as level of comfort goes, I’ve known these guys for a long time. I’ve won races with them. I think they know what I’m capable of and it’s not a gimmick. I think I’ve been given and will be given the best equipment. And it’s not like they’re just putting another car on the grid for the sake of doing it or a gimmick or anything like that. It’s like they legit believe in me. And I believe in them. And we can go win together.

It’s very unique, honestly, in racing that the team are very supportive of one another. There’s a real team atmosphere — there’s no infighting, there’s no politics. It’s just really a supportive atmosphere, and you don’t find that every day in racing, unfortunately. I’ve been in some less-than-ideal scenarios in the past, and I’ve been in some great ones. So you know, you recognize it when you see it, and I’m just going to try and make the most of it.

OHT: What has training looked like for you? Could you share a couple of specifics?

Legge: I just really had to kind of up the strength training, but I still do a lot of the same things I’ve done for the last 10 years. I still I still run five miles every day, most often. But I definitely increased weight training — upper body and core — and tried to lose weight because the lighter you are in these cars, the better. Mentally — I have a mental coach that I’ve worked with on and off for a number of years, but I think with age and experience comes wisdom, and I think you know yourself a lot better. I think I’m actually mentally in a much better place and a much more secure place than I was when I was trying to make it as a racing driver. I think the relative successes I’ve had across the years and everything else have helped with that, so it’s been pretty seamless to move into doing it.

OHT: When it comes to women in racing and women at the Indy 500, it continues to be an anomaly. It’s been 10 years since you last raced at Indy and there still has been only nine women drivers who’ve raced there. Why do you think that is?

Legge: It’s totally rubbish. I don’t actually think it’s a reflection of what’s been happening over the past decade. I think if you look at it, from when I first started nearly 20 years ago until now, there’s been a snowball effect and it’s been exponential of the women involved. …There are a lot more women involved in racing. I think a lot of TV documentaries, like (Netflix’s)“Drive to Survive,” probably have made it more human and more interesting to a lot of people. But I think there’s a lot more girls karting, and there’s a lot more women trying to rise through the ranks.

I think it will happen – it’s just not a linear climb up the mountain. It’s kind of like, you go over one hump and then you find another one, and then you keep going. And because it isn’t a gimmick anymore, the spotlight isn’t necessarily as much on you, which means it’s hard to find sponsors and such. I think it very much depends on the individual now, rather than just the fact that you’re a girl and racing. It depends on whether you can actually drive and not just turn up. So in a way, it’s good and it’s bad.

2022 U18 Women's Worlds: Game schedule, how to watch, results and scores (1)

OHT: Do feel like women racecar drivers still have to be as good as or better than the men to get that recognition?

Legge: Yes and no. I think I think it’s difficult because the default is to not believe that they can do it until it’s been proven wrong. Whereas there’s more of an open mind going in with the young male drivers that are coming up. I would say that I don’t think (women) have to be “better than” — I think they’re judged on more things. So for example, I don’t think the guys have to worry about what they look like as much as we do. … So I think it’s different standards, especially because, the spotlight is still on you a little bit more. But I think there is definitely more of an open mind that women can do it.

OHT: Let’s do a quick rewind. Can you talk a little bit about your childhood and how you fell in love with racing?

Legge: It didn’t start off as a love of racing. I was a tomboy and an adrenaline junkie — and I was also very close to my dad. I still am. I would follow him around — he built houses. So I would be on the building site, with a hammer, nails and stuff. He actually wanted to have a go at karting while we were on holiday. I nagged him and I nagged him, and he eventually let me have a go. But it wasn’t that I had a love of cars or anything like that. It’s the competition.

It’s mostly the competition with yourself, I think, because you’re always striving for perfection. And because there’s so many changing variables, you never get it. You’re always learning. So, you’re battling with yourself mentally, and you’re also battling everybody else on track. And it’s fast. And it’s really fun. So, I think there’s a there’s a number of reasons I fell in love with racing itself. And I think once it gets in your blood, it’s really hard to not have it in your blood. Like I can’t imagine not racing in some way, shape, or form. Obviously, a time will come when I don’t race anymore, but I still think I’ll be involved in racing, because I love the sport. I just have a real real passion for it.

OHT: What will success at the Indy 500 look like for you this year? What are you hoping to achieve?

Legge: I think there’s a bunch of things I want to achieve. I want to do as well as I’m capable of and the car is capable of. I don’t want to leave anything on the table. I don’t want to make any mistakes. I want to learn as much as possible. I want to enjoy it as much as possible and get as much out of it as I can. And if that’s good enough to win, and I want to win.

I we collectively have been working very hard on different things — the car, the sim, fitness. I think if I can retain all the information needed and figure out the traffic and the tools inside the car and everything — which I anticipate I will be able to relatively quickly — so that all then gets programmed into my subconscious. Because if you’re thinking about it consciously, then you’re too slow. You need to have it, like, in your bones almost. Then, if we make good decisions on strategy, if we make good decisions on car setup and I make good decisions on the track, then what will be will be.

OHT: When you think about race day, what are you looking forward to the most? What is it like being in that grid when it all starts up on race day? Is there anything else like it?

Legge: It’s bonkers. It’s the largest sporting event in the world, as far as people turning up goes, and I didn’t ever let myself enjoy it because you put your blinders. You don’t want to let anything in because you’ve got so much to think about — and you’re nervous. It has its own personality, the 500, and I intend to enjoy it more this year. I think I’m probably in a place where I can enjoy it a little bit more now and still do all the other things.

But honestly when the crowd is in there, the whole place is totally different, and you go into Turn 1 with 33 cars, and the air has been pushed around by the cars so much that you’re getting buffeted from side to side, and you don’t know which way is up and which way is down. And you can’t really tell — you just kind of go on what your spotter tells you, and it’s a whole different venue. Unless you’ve done it, you can’t describe the emotion that it evokes. It’s probably the neatest experience on the planet.

ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: Remembering History — Janet Guthrie races into motorsports history with celebrated 1977 Indy 500, NASCAR season

More Women's Sports News

2023 WNBA season primer: All eyes on Aces, Liberty ‘super teams’... Las Vegas head coach Becky Hammon denies bullying former player after WNBA... 2023 NCAA DI women’s golf championships: How to watch, who’s...
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Gov. Deandrea McKenzie

Last Updated: 14/02/2023

Views: 5597

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (66 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Gov. Deandrea McKenzie

Birthday: 2001-01-17

Address: Suite 769 2454 Marsha Coves, Debbieton, MS 95002

Phone: +813077629322

Job: Real-Estate Executive

Hobby: Archery, Metal detecting, Kitesurfing, Genealogy, Kitesurfing, Calligraphy, Roller skating

Introduction: My name is Gov. Deandrea McKenzie, I am a spotless, clean, glamorous, sparkling, adventurous, nice, brainy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.