Indy driver Katherine Legge is a leader both on the track and off
The old adage of “Art mimics life” can be used in just about any category when used in contrast or comparison to life. Whether in professional or personal circles, just about any situation or circumstance can be used as a learning tool of what to do in life and at times what not to do.
In the story of Indy driver Katherine Legge, she has found that in both her personal and professional life her obstacles in both scenarios have allowed her to learn, grow, and at times propel her towards reaching her goals and dreams. There are many choices we contemplate and make, sometimes they occur on a minute-by-minute basis. Legge has lived her life believing that time is of the essence both in life and in the seat of a race car - so it’s imperative to always make the right choices since we only live once.
Legge started racing during her childhood in Europe at the age of 15. While following her dream to race she usually made good decisions. At time’s she faltered and lost a little faith in her abilities. For awhile Legge was racing in the U.S. but after a scary accident in 2006 she went back to racing on European tracks (which took her a few steps away from her dream). A few years later Legge returned to the U.S. and broke through many obstacles and barriers (some of which were personal) to achieve her dream of racing on the Indy circuit.
Legge’s first Indy race was this year and the driver had a lot of big events to contend with during her inaugural race at this premier event. “It was chaotic, we didn’t have an engine until the last minute (originally had a Lotus engine and then was changed to Chevy),” Legge said. “They gave us an engine but then we didn’t have any testing time with it (between the time it was received and the race), so it was tough. Both myself and teammate Sebastian Bourdais struggled because we hadn’t had the testing (time to try out and get to know) the engine,” Legge said. The team persevered and, “We made it through to the end but it was an experience.”
Perseverance is a concept that builds character and gains respect, especially to those within the racing realms. Whether it is persevering in a hot race suit with the sun blaring on you, getting banged around within the cockpit of the vehicle, having things break, unforeseen circumstances, or trouble receiving sponsors to show the world your value, every driver (just like the rest of us) knows how big of a learning experience continuing to persevere can be.
“Every race car driver struggles with funding and sponsors, and getting opportunities has been tough,” Legge acknowledged. “ Very few people get a good car with proper backing and enough testing and practicing. But, I have received quite a lot of support from a lot of people along the way. There are those who think that you don’t belong there (in racing). Just like in life – racing is a reflection of some of what happens in life. It’s also very reactive in general and everyone in the racing community is in a reactive and dynamic environment.”
A big part of Legge’s community are her sponsors and driving team who are not only her biggest supporter’s but her family. “On the True Car team there are six (females) who drive in all different forms of motorsports,” Legge said. “Three of us drive in open wheel and the other three in rally or touring,” she added. There are a few very personal reasons why Legge is proud to be a True Car driver. “The True Car team decided that this is the only sport in the world where there is a level and equal playing field and there are no restrictions on differences. Yes you have to work really hard, but you can be as good if not better than the guys – You can’t say that about any other sport. True Car is committed to providing us with the tools to succeed.” The True Car program is called Women Empowered and that is what they encourage their female drivers to be.
In many ways, Legge is paying forward the love and support she has received. She also inspires and mentors many including females of all ages who are interested in learning more or even becoming involved within the sport. Recently Legge attended Bridgestone's Driver Development Center in Toronto as a guest instructor during a two day training session. The students for the session were female journalists from the U.S. and Canada. During Legge's time at the Indy driving school she was able to provide insight and feedback on how the (female) driver's could improve their technique on the track. Legge encourages others through her racing team True Car and was recently named an ambassador of Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, (FIA) which is the world governing body of motorsports. Legge is also an ambassador and supporter of the Girl Scouts of America’s S.T.E.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Initiative. “Even when a girl has an interest in S.T.E.M, she might find that boys take the lead in a school environment due to unspoken assumptions about gender roles. Girl Scouts offers a safe, supportive place for girls to seek challenges, (especially within science, technology, engineering, and math classes, programs and fields). The girl-led process encourages them to decide which topics they want to explore and how they want to go about it,” per the programs mission statement.
“Helping the Girl Scouts, FIA, and others satisfies the feeling of giving back,” Legge said. “I’m passionate about helping young people, especially girls. When you are growing up (between the ages of 10-20) those are the years that are so tough because you are always worrying about what your peers think. (When I was younger) I wish I had put all of my efforts behind myself and what I wanted to do - Young people should listen to their heart and head and not others.”
“ Everybody is different and has a passion for something,” Legge added. “You are only here once and who gives a damn what others think – don’t let people take away your dreams.”