I spoke to Katherine Legge back in December shortly before the season-opener to get her views on the series, her new team and whether she thinks they have a good chance of winning the championship this year.
Having moved teams for the 2017 season, Great Britain’s Katherine Legge almost had the perfect start to this year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. During the opening round back in January – the infamous 24 Hours of Daytona – Legge and her teammate found themselves challenging near the front of the pack in the GT Daytona category, only for a mechanical issue to halt them, eventually ending up eleventh.
Can you tell us more about the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship?
It is the biggest sports car series in North America, it’s like the North American version of WEC really. There used to be called the Grand-Am Road Racing and American Le Mans Series championships but they combined to make this big series which is now sponsored by WeatherTech. I’ve been driving in it for four years, this will be my fifth year. When I needed to pay the full-time bills after IndyCar I was fortunate enough to link up with Dr Don Panoz who ran the Delta Wing team. He is one of the biggest names in American Motorsport. So I did that but Delta Wing is not racing in the series this year so I was very fortunate to have an existing relationship with Michael Shank racing, who I drove one race for last year in the prototype category, and then also Honda, so that’s where my ride for this year came from.
You say it’s similar to WEC so does it involve sharing stints in the car?
Absolutely. Our biggest race of the year is the 24 Hours of Daytona. We then go onto the Twelve Hours of Sebring and the majority of the other races are between 90 minutes – which is the shortest, we only have one of those – and ten hours. We have the Petit Le Mans which finishes our season and that is also ten hours but yeah they’re all endurance races. The majority of them are done with just two drivers but obviously Daytona has four and then in Sebring and PLM we use three drivers.
What is it about the series and this format of racing that really interests you?
It’s something that fans can relate to because the cars are the ones that you see on the road. You go to IndyCar and even NASCAR and you don’t see those cars on the road but you do see these sports cars. You dream about owning a Ferrari or a Lamborghini or an NSX so I think it’s very relateable and very cool. We’ve got some of the best technology. It’s the most competitive racing really because you have got all the different manufacturers vying for the top sport and to be seen as having the best sports car out there. We race on some of the coolest tracks in the world. I love Road Altanta which we get to race at, we’re going to Sebring, we get to race Watkins Glenn – proper old school circuits.
What are the aims for the season for you and the team?
That’s tricky because we’re not really sure where to put ourselves at the moment because we’re so new. I don’t know how the team see it but I see it like it’s going to be a process and by the end of the year we should be winning races, but at the beginning of the year it’s difficult to say. Obviously we want to go straight out of the blocks and be fast but that never happens.
How are you feeling about your new teammates this season?
Andy Lally and I are the two full-time guys in our car and then we had Graham Rahal for Daytona and Mark Wilkins for the longer races as well. I’ve known Andy for a long time and he’s definitely a guy who I look up to and I go to advice for. We’re really close personal friends too so before I even knew I was driving in the same team as him he is my go-to person for a lot of advice so it would be cool to get to race with him. He has one of the best reputations in the paddock because he has got just so much experience. He’s been driving sports cars I guess going on 15 years or something crazy like that.
How does the relationship work between teammates in this format of racing?
All I can go from here is my past experience. So in DTM or IndyCar you want to be the best driver full stop. There’s still team camaraderie and you still want to help the team improve to help your own performance as well. But in sports cars it’s much closer than that, we work on every single little element – you have to compromise on the seat, you go through the data, you do track walks together. Everything is done closely because if they win you win. I’m super fortunate to have such a great group of people this year, we all get on super well and we just have really good fun when we’re doing it. I think that Mike and the folks have done a really good job of putting the people together to make this a really good programme.
The series you’re taking part in, there’s a lot of male drivers but very few females – is that something that bothers you at all?
No, I’m used to it! There’s a Danish girl called Christina Nielsen and myself and I think we are the only two. There was a girl called Ashley Freiburg who was doing some racing but was never full-time unfortunately. It’s just a factor of there aren’t that many women coming up through the ranks so if you’re looking for good drivers then there just aren’t that many to choose from because you’ve got thousands of guys who are really good and just a handful of girls. It’s also a factor of money and finding budgets and everything else until you make it. Kristina’s still in that stage where she’s trying to prove herself so she doesn’t have to bring budgets any more and I think she’s doing a really good job. She’s still very young and she’s got lots of time ahead of her and she’s got head on her shoulders and she can obviously drive so I am excited to see in a few years what comes of her career.
With Essaar being a keen advocate of female racing talent, we look forward to following Katherine and hope to hear from her later in the year.