03/03 2014

Katherine Legge would go all ‘Talladega Nights’ for competitive ride at Indianapolis

Katherine Legge would go all ‘Talladega Nights’ for competitive ride at Indianapolis

33-year-old British driver talks cars, the Indy 500, Le Mans and Jacque Villeneuve during pit stop in Detroit
By: on February 26, 2014

LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC – Katherine Legge is piloting the DeltaWing in the Tudor United SportsCar Championship this year.

When it comes to racing, Katherine Legge never met a competitive ride that she didn’t like. The 33-year-old British racer is driving the revolutionary DeltaWing this year in the IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship after spending 2012 in IndyCar with Dragon Racing.

Legge has also raced in Champ Car, the German DTM sports-car series and the Toyota Atlantic Series. In 2005, she tested a Formula One car for Minardi.

On Wednesday, Legge was in Detroit to help promote the United SportsCar Championship/IndyCar Series weekend on Belle Isle, May 30-June 1. Part of Legge’s Tour de Detroit included a stop at the Autoweek office, where she answered questions from fans submitted via Twitter and a few from the Autoweek motorsports staff.

Here’s what Legge had to say on a number of topics, ranging from Le Mans to Indianapolis to her current ride, the DeltaWing:

What is the favorite car, road car and race car, you’ve driven:

Katherine Legge: Ford GT40, the old one not the new one. My favorite race car was the old Champ Car. It was cool.

Will you be racing at Le Mans this year?

Legge: DeltaWing has not been granted an entry to Le Mans, as far as I’m aware. So, if anybody wants to call me, I am free.

What emotions do you feel in an endurance race?

Legge: It depends on how well you’re doing, really. At 3 o’clock in the morning in the garage when the gearbox is broken and you’ve got a fast car, it sucks. Every emotion, I think, you go through in a 24-hour race. You’re happy, you’re sad, you’re angry. When you have a crash, there’s trepidation — is everyone OK, what happened? Pretty much every emotion you can go through in a 24-hour period.

What are your thoughts on a 34th experimental entry for the Indy 500?

Legge: I read the rumors. I don’t know whether there’s any weight to them at all or not. I haven’t made that phone call and asked because it’s way above me. It would be very cool to do if everything was done right and the car was competitive and safe and everything else. It would have to be the right circumstances and it might be a cool way to update the Indy 500, but not that the Indy 500 needs updating in any way, shape or form, in my opinion.

Is there a possibility for a ride this year at Indianapolis for the 500?

Legge: I’m working on that at the moment. I absolutely want to do the 500 again.

Any thoughts about a return to IndyCar in the near future?

Legge: I want to go wherever gives me the best chance of winning races, whether it’s IndyCar or Tudor [United SportsCar Championship] — they’re both top-notch series in the U.S.

LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC – The DeltaWing completed 407 laps at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

What is the most significant adaption to your driving style that you have to make for the DeltaWing?

Legge: It’s very similar to drive. It’s not as different as you would think, looking at it. No big changes, really, apart from everything has to be done more independently of each other – you brake, you steer and you accelerate. And it’s a bit hard to see out of.

Are you still an ambassador for the FIA?

Legge: Yes I am.

From your interactions with fans, is the DeltaWing attracting more fans who are ‘green minded’?

Legge: Yes, it has got that element to it. It is more economical.

Is there anything significantly different from driving the DeltaWing in a 24-hour race as opposed to a more conventional sports car?

Legge: We had to practice the driver changes a little bit more, because the cockpit is so tight. We spent about a half a day perfecting that, and we did get a lot of bruises. Apart from that, no, nothing different.

With all the young driving talent out there looking for rides, what kind of message does that send when a team like Schmidt Peterson Motorsports hires 42-year-old Jacques Villeneuve to race at Indianapolis?

Legge: I’m super jealous of him because his is in the ride that I was in last year for Indy. And that’s a really good car. And Sam [Schmidt], [general manager] Rob Edwards and that crew is second to none. I wish I had the name Villeneuve. Good for him, though. If it was me, and I had the opportunity, I don’t think I’d care what people think. I would just like to enter the 500 again and maybe have a chance to win it. And he’s in a good enough car to win it. He’s done it before. He’s knows the drill.


Do you think the Villeneuve announcement is a bigger problem for IndyCar – giving rides to older drivers instead of new young talent?

Legge: It’s names. It’s the need for publicity and everything else at the moment. And it will bring more fans than some no-name or whatever. I think they need to make stars out of their drivers. We had Dario [Franchitti], who’s now gone, and he was like the biggest name, and Scott [Dixon]. But people like [James] Hinchcliffe, he’s got such a personality that it would be easy to make him into a star. And you could make something out of a rivalry between Marco [Andretti] and [Graham] Rahal and make that big again. Bringing in names like Villeneuve is fair enough, but you need to also nurture the ones that you’ve already got and make sure there’s enough money and everything for people like Conor [Daly] – he’s an American – and me. It’s all about money nowadays. I don’t think it matters about how much talent you’ve got. It seems like if you’ve got more money, you get the shot. People like Oriol Servia, he’s out of a ride and a talented guy. You’ve got Alex Tagliani, me, people who could do it. It’s really difficult to get funding.


What would you do to get a ride for the Indy 500?

Legge: I told [IndyCar vice president of competition] Derrick Walker that if you help me get a ride at Indy this year, I’ll do whatever you want me to do. I’ll run around naked saying “I’m on fire! I’m on fire!” Just get me a ride in a competitive car. I’d go all “Talladega Nights” if I could get a competitive car.

Where is the DeltaWing in terms or performance and going forward this year? It qualified a strong P8 at the Rolex.

Legge: Performance-wise, it’s brilliant. It’s now just about making sure we iron out all the problems and that we’re competitive week in and week out. The gearbox broke at Daytona, and there’s the fact that it’s so lightweight and we have all these different materials that you wouldn’t use on a conventional car. We’re learning about what breaks, and we’re learning things that working through problems that only miles on track will help you iron out. That’s the good thing about the endurance races. The car can do the sprint races no problem, without issues. And then you go to the longer races, and it really is a test of endurance for the car to see what breaks first. DeltaWing will be making road cars, and this really a platform for the testing and development to make sure they get everything absolutely right – as it is in every form of motorsports. They’ll be using the technology they develop in the race car in the road car. It’s neat to be in on the ground floor of that.