“I know I race like a girl,” says a promotional slogan for Katherine Legge. “Try and keep up.”
Not many can keep up with Legge, though. The 32-year-old is one of very few women in the top ranks of professional motor racing, the first woman to win the prestigious Rising Star award from the BritishRacing Drivers’ Club and a competitor in the IndyCar Series — one of the jewels in the crown of professional racing.
Legge will be one of 26 drivers competing in this Sunday’s Edmonton Indy. After that, the British native (she now lives in — where else? — Indianapolis) is off to the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma in California. Here’s an inside-track look at a self-confessed adrenalin-junkie.
How did you get started?
I got started in go-karts. We went on a family vacation to Spain and my dad, my uncle and me — I was nine years old — went to one of those “fun car” places. I loved it. Back in England, Dad and I spent every weekend racing, from Friday night to Sunday night, from when I was nine to when I was 19.
When did you decide this was what you wanted to do?
I made the jump (to professional racing) when I won a scholarship to race in Formula Ford (an entry-level racing series) in 2005 when I came over to the U.S. I won my first race that year and came third overall in the Atlantics championship. That made a career possible.
Is your dad still involved?
My dad makes the trip from England to wherever I’m racing — North America, Australia, China. He’s broke because of it. He can take credit for (my career success) because, yes, I’ve been the one driving the car but he’s been the one behind me, giving me advice, propping me up and keeping me on a level ground.
Do women face particular hurdles in motor sports?
Absolutely, but it’s changing. When I was on the way up, women were very much a novelty. Now there are more women in racing, and more being done to help them. FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, which governs auto-racing events around the world) has started a female racing commission.
Your fiancé, Peter Terting, is also a race-car driver. Is he as good as you?
That depends on who you ask! It’s a good (thing) we don’t race in the same series, because I don’t think we would still be planning our wedding if that were the case.
What will you do after racing?
I haven’t thought about it. I don’t want to think about it. But one of my passions is letting girls and young women believe that they can be anything they want to be, that they can follow their dreams. I’ve just been announced as the female driver ambassador for the FIA. And I’m also an official spokesperson for the U.S. Girl Scouts’ STEM program, which encourages girls in science, technology, engineering and math. When I stop racing I think I will be more active in (such activities).
Have you brought any young women into the sport?
I didn’t set out to be a role model, I set out to be a race-car driver. But I have had young girls come up to me at the track and say, ‘I’m racing because of you,’ or ‘you’re my hero.’ I think, wow. That’s a lot of responsibility right there. So I’ve tried to conduct myself in such a manner that shows girls that whatever they want to do, go for it.