Form followed function for Katherine Legge today as the three-time 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship race winner clocked 27 learning laps at speed on the Autodromo Vallelunga road course near Rome.
The 25-year-old from Northampton, who finished third in the season-long Atlantic points tally pleased Stoddart with her on-track activities. "It was pleasing to see Katherine complete her test and set one of the fastest times of the past three days. She is proving she's definitely got what it takes to be a Formula One driver," he said.
Taking to the track at mid-morning on intermediate tires -- due to the [again] cool and damp weather -- Legge switched to dry Bridgestone tires as the temperatures rose and track conditions improved.
As she's shown in every new endeavor undertaken, Legge then worked to put together a series of "impressively quick and consistent laps," the Minardi team concurred. Her best of 1:21.176 around the 2.55-mile Vallelunga track compared well with the other drivers testing for Minardi, Minardi test pilot Chanoch Nissany and Uruguay's Juan Caceres.
"I want to say thank you to Paul Stoddart and all the guys at Minardi for their unstinting support over the last two days," Legge advised. "It was been a fantastic experience and they have been just absolutely great the whole time.
"As for the test," she continued, "I expected the unexpected and that's what I got. It was certainly a lot easier today than yesterday, mainly because I was left alone to focus on what I had to do."
Legge, a former instructor at the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit, had her first full season of competition in the US-based Atlantic championship this year, working with the experienced Polestar Racing group. With backing from Champ Car series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven, she undertook the first few races of the season on prospectus.
Legge made her first trip to the United States last December for a test amongst women vying for a possible ride with Kathryn Nunn's IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series team. The seventh of six "invited" woman drivers, Legge nonetheless got time on the Texas Motor Speedway 1.5-mile oval and impressed Nunn's crew from the start.
"The moment I heard her shifts," recalled former team manager Butch Winkle, "I knew she was the real deal." Despite never seeing an oval, having less time than the other candidates and lacking her own race clothing in which to perform, Legge was the star of the show.
She got her Atlantic ride by shadowing Kalkhoven when he was in Northampton to finalize purchase of the Cosworth engine building concern.
Once again taking advantage of opportunities, Legge jumped at the chance to drive Minardi's F1 challenger at the behest of Stoddart, who has campaigned to find new talent since acquiring the Italian team.
After her Tuesday "off" Legge allowed, "It was great driving a Formula One car for the first time, even if I did end up learning about traction control the hard way. The accident," she mused, "was really just down to a lack of experience, but it most definitely hasn't dampened my enthusiasm."
In the interest of safety, with fading light and falling temperatures, the Minardi team decided to call it a day after her late afternoon shunt. Legge merely brushed a trackside concrete wall with relatively minor damage to the car.
By becoming the first woman to win in a premier North American racing series when she took the checkered flags on the streets of Long Beach, Katherine Legge gained a spot in history. Will she be the first successful woman in Formula One?
Stoddart's driving finds and prot?g?s have gone on to the upper echelons of Grand Prix racing over the years.