A native of Guilford, England, Katherine Legge was born in one of the racing capitals of the world.
But it was not a land where Legge saw many opportunities for women. After racing competitively in a series of open-wheel development formula cars in Britain, she turned her gaze west.
“America was the land of opportunity,” Legge said. “I saw a couple of girls racing over here, like Sarah Fisher at the time, and that’s when I thought I’d like to try and get an opportunity to come over.”
Financing, an ever-present hurdle for racers — especially for female racers — complicated the move over. After a scholarship crumbled, Legge was forced to take a more direct route. She waited outside the Cosworth office of Kevin Kalkhoven, who was also the owner of the Champ Car World Series at the time, to convince him to give her a chance.
Kalkhoven sent out his daughter to speak with Legge.
By the end of the day, Legge left with a contract to race for Polestar Racing. That was in 2004.
Since then, Legge has raced in a variety of series, from IndyCar to DMT to her current seat with Team Hardpoint in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The sports car racing series was formed when the two major North American governing bodies, the American Le Mans Series and the Rolex Sports Car Series, merged.
The series comes to Virginia International Raceway this weekend, which serves as the home race for the Alton-based Team Hardpoint.
Hardpoint comes to VIR off a ninth-place finish at Long Beach — a location that holds a special place in Legge’s heart after she became the first woman to win a major US open-wheel race in her 2005 Atlantics debut.
After the VIR race, the series concludes with Road Atlanta, where four-time IMSA winner is currently based, leading to a meaningful home stretch for Legge and the team after adjusting to a new-to-her Porsche.
“They’re going to be very excited,” Legge said of the Alton race in a Sept. 23 interview. “It’s been an up-and-down year, but it’s been an exciting project for me and one I’d very much like to continue. … There’s definitely a sense of camaraderie where you had to try and move the team forward and help the team develop. I think that in the space of a year, we’ve done more than most teams do in longer.”
Team Hardpoint’s No. 88 currently ranks eighth out of 27 teams in the standings, while Legge and team driver/owner Rob Ferriol are 10th and 11th, respectively, in the driver rankings.
The team was initially meant to field a second car, which would have seen Legge team up with Christina Nielsen — a two-time GTD champion — for the entirety of the season following their third Rolex 24 appearance together. But financing in the COVID era meant the team had to downsize to one car.
The team found itself in the news late in September because of its affiliation with another team, Earl Bamber Motorsport, whose employee, Will Bamber, was arrested on charges of domestic battery that were later dropped. Hardpoint said it has severed all ties with the Bamber group and the team’s racing efforts are unaffected.
This season was also a return for Legge following a crash that broke her left leg and right wrist and took her out of commission for six months.
The crash came during testing for the European Le Mans Series, where Legge was scheduled to be part of an all-female team for Richard Mille Racing.
“I was very frustrated,” Legge said. “[Recovery] took a lot longer than I hoped it would be, but I’m back now and fighting fit.
“In a way, it happened in a good time because COVID meant I didn’t miss too much, but I did miss Le Mans, which was a dream of mine and it was absolutely heartbreaking not to be able to do it. But maybe I’ll get that opportunity in the future.”
Over the course of her career, Legge said she’s seen the culture around racing begin to change as more women become involved and remain visible role models for young girls.
Being part of all-female teams, or holding mandated spots for women such as in Extreme E or the W Series — although Legge said she had some hesitations over the segregated nature of the latter formula — bring attention to female drivers.
But the end goal, Legge said, is proving that women who want to race are not merely a gimmick but legitimate contenders who deserve to be taken seriously.
“It’s the only sport in the world where it doesn’t matter if you’re man or woman, Black or white, you can compete,” Legge said. “It’s not about outright strength, it’s about repetitive strength and speed.”