Katherine Legge anxious to return to the site of her first win, Long Beach.
Once again, sports car racing’s favorite oddball, the Claro/TracFone DeltaWing, goes where no DeltaWing has ever gone before this weekend: A street course, as the car tackles Saturday’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Tequila Patrón Sports Car Showcase at Long Beach.
Until now, beginning with its debut in 2012 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the DeltaWing has competed only on full road courses. But the two drivers, Katherine Legge and Memo Rojas, are more than ready to take on the tight and historic Long Beach circuit.
Legge won her first race in the United States in 2005, the Formula Atlantic event in Long Beach, becoming the first woman to win a major North American open-wheel race. The DeltaWing Coupe will be the fifth different chassis Legge has raced at Long Beach (Atlantics, Lola Champ Car, Panoz DP01 Champ Car and DW12 IndyCar), a feat very few drivers can claim.
And Rojas, co-driving with Scott Pruett in the multiple championship-winning Chip Ganassi Racing Daytona Prototype, won the first TUDOR Championship event in Long Beach last year, his first trip to the course.
This is also the first race with DeltaWing for race engineer Catherine Crawford, currently the senior project manager at Crawford Composites in North Carolina. She had worked for, and won with, plenty of sports car and open wheel teams, including Starworks, Team Sahlen, Dragon Racing (working with Legge at Indianapolis in 2012) and Jordan F1. She succeeds Alan Mugglestone, who has returned to Europe.
'So much history'
“Long Beach has so much history with so many drivers and so many classes, from Formula One and IndyCar to sports cars,” Rojas said. “Growing up, it’s one of the tracks you want to race at and win at – and I’ve been lucky enough to do both. This is the first street race for the DeltaWing, but I think the acceleration and the tight corners will suit the car just fine.”
Legge hasn’t been back to Long Beach since 2012, and she’s ready for the return. The tight corners and concrete barriers on both sides intimidate some drivers, but she is not among them.
“I don’t find it scary in any way, shape or form. It’s one of the most iconic street circuits in the world,” she told Motorsport.com. “Really, it’s the American version on Monaco, isn’t it? It will definitely be different in the DeltaWing because the shape of the car is so different – you work out mentally how wide the car is, because you can’t really see the front wheels. It wil be an adjustment for another reason – it’s the first time I’ve raced a car there with a roof!”
The move to a street course hasn’t required a major overhaul of the car, but it seems like the track might be a little tougher on the gearbox, which has been the DeltaWing’s boggest challenge since its very first test in the desert in 2011. “The gearbox has been the last piece of the puzzle for us,” she says, but she is confident in the hard work the crew and the engineers have put into the shifting issues. “We’re going in with confidence,” she says, “and hopefully it will be a good result for us.”
'A good circuit for us'
“We know what the car is capable of and Long Beach has the potential to be a good circuit for us because the car is so good under braking and acceleration,” said Tim Keene, team manager. “Long Beach is one of the races you want to be at. The Saturday crowd is so huge; it feels as though we’re playing in front of as many fans as you did in the first two races combined.”
Due to the short, 1.968-mile track, there’s no room for the full complement of TUDOR Championship cars, so the Prototype Challenge and GT-Daytona cars are taking the weekend off. Presently there are 10 Prototype entries, including the DeltaWing, and eight GT-Le Mans entries.
The Tequila Patrón Sports Car Showcase will be broadcast live on IMSA.com from 7:05 – 8:45 p.m. ET Saturday, with a replay on FOX Sports 1 Sunday, April 19 at 4:00 p.m. ET.