Brit Impresses in Surprise Menards Infiniti Pro Series Test
FT. WORTH, Texas, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2004 -- British driver Katherine Legge was a surprising seventh candidate in a three-day test of women drivers by Indy Racing League Menards Infiniti Pro Series team Nunn Motorsports at Texas Motor Speedway.
Six drivers were selected in October to participate in the test, which team owner Kathryn Nunn hopes leads to a full-time woman driver in 2005.
Legge, a 24-year-old from Silverstone, England, was not chosen but decided to attend anyway.
"Katherine had not only been phoning me from England on a daily basis but e-mailing me to see if any decisions had been made," said Nunn, the only woman owner in the IRL. "When she found out she was not chosen, she waited a couple of weeks and then she e-mailed me and said, 'Would you mind if I just came and watched?'
"I said, 'You're welcome to come, but I can't guarantee any time in the car. You probably should just go on that fact.' I didn't really think she would come, and then she sent her itinerary and she came Saturday night before the test. She's here, and she was smart enough to bring her driving suit. I'm just so impressed with her determination that I just couldn't let her go back to England without finding time for her in the car and letting her have some laps."
Legge, who has competed in Formula Ford, British Formula 3 and Formula Renault, turned 37 laps on the 1.5-mile oval -- her first time driving on an oval.
"When I first went out it was a bit awe inspiring, because I've never felt anything like it," Legge said. "You're feeling the g-forces pushing you into the seat and pushing you backwards. I'm used to having to brake and turn and all sorts where this is really about being as smooth as you can. It's made me a better driver in a way, because it makes you think about things slightly differently."
Legge quickly brought the car up to speed and maintained a consistent approach throughout her 37 laps.
"She had a good line and was very consistent," said Butch Meyer, technical director for the Menards Infiniti Pro Series. "She was on the mark every lap."
"I'm very, very impressed," Nunn said.
Legge began racing karts at the age of 10 and moved into Formula Ford at the age of 19. In 2002, she was the first female to receive the prestigious British Racing Drivers Club "Rising Star" award.
"My goals have changed," Legge said. "I started in Europe and thought very narrow-mindedly about Europe. I thought Formula One, Formula One, Formula One that's where you need to go. That's been hindered a lot by money and budgets.
"Then I came over here this year. I had never been to the U.S. before. Everyone said there's more opportunity out there, they're more open-minded, they're more media orientated, the marketing is much better. I came out here and I was like, 'Wow. I love it. This is where I want to be.'
"And then when I heard about this, I thought, 'Wow. What an opportunity.' And I didn't get in, so I was 'please let me come.'"
Legge hopes her brief tryout will allow her an opportunity to compete in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series in 2005.
"It's where you want to go. It's one of the best series over here. You've got a direct step to the IndyCar Series. You're with the best team, or what was seemingly the best team for the latter half of the season. And you've got someone who really supports what women are up to."
The other six participants in the test are Becca Anderson, Juliana Chiovitti, Sondi Eden, Rossella Manfrinato, Wendy Mathis and Sarah McCune.
The Menards Infiniti Pro Series 2005 season will begin March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 2005 IRL IndyCar® Series season will begin with the Toyota Indy 300 March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.