‘Being the best girl driver doesn’t really mean anything,’ says motorsport star Katherine Legge. ‘We should aim to be the best driver’
British motorsport racing star Katherine Legge is used to leading from the front in what is a heavily male-dominated sport.
But with the next generation of young female drivers coming through the ranks, she hopes they will continue to steer the sport in the right direction.
Legge has paved the way for female drivers throughout her career, which kicked off in 2000 when she became the first woman to achieve a pole in a Formula Ford Zetec race.
Now at 40, she admits that the opportunities are coming ‘thick and fast’ since she was an up-and-coming star, including the start of the all-female W Series and Extreme E.
But she says female drivers still have ‘responsibility’ to ‘prove’ themselves in order to get opportunities similar to their male counterparts and to reach the very top.
Legge, who was the first woman to compete full time in the Toyota Atlantic Championship in 2005, told NewsChain: "It’s just a numbers game, I think there aren’t that many women and there aren’t that many good women doing it.
"I think the first step is to prove that we can perform in order to get the opportunities, the sponsors and the money, and to give opportunities for those coming up behind us.
"There are hundreds of thousands of guys racing across the globe so the chances of them being good and 20 and 30 of them being outstanding is quite high.
"When there are only 20 or 30 girls in the world doing it the chance of one of them being outstanding would be a mean feat. So I think we need to open the doors and make it more accessible.
“Because if we don’t, then we are just going to shut back down again and people are going to say ‘see I told you, females can’t drive and they can’t do Formula One,’ so it’s a lot of responsibility on our shoulders."
Legge was born in Guildford and is currently based in Atlanta for her career.
The star is set to race again after she broke her leg in testing in this year’s European Le Mans Series where she was captain for the all-female team Richard Mille Racing.
She will begin testing this month ahead of 24 Hours of Daytona taking place early next year, and the team she will drive for will be announced in mid-December.
She added that the competition for the female drivers who do race is quite ‘fierce,' but hopes they are embracing the opportunities which are being given to them for the right reasons.
She said: "I think it is quite fiercely (competitive) with some of (the female drivers). I think that’s where age and experience kind of comes into play as I don’t have anything to prove anymore.
"A lot of them want to be the best girl which is utterly ridiculous because we should be more focused on being the best driver.
"You see a lot of them trying to get that mantle. It’s like the W series in a way, best girl doesn’t really mean anything because when you go out into the real world and you race against the guys it’s a lot tougher.
"I think they need to set their sets their sights a little bit higher than being best girl, and instead be the best the race car driver which they can be rather than make it a gender-based thing.
“A lot of them have the same mentality as me but I think a lot of them are still very misguided in that maybe they are doing it for the wrong reasons and I think that hurts us as a whole and as a group.”
It was announced last month that the W Series has been lined up for eight support races at Formula One weekends during the 2021 season.
In what could be seen as a huge step forward for the sport, Legge is ‘torn’ between whether it is a positive or negative.
Legge, who was also the first woman to test an A1 Grand Prix car in 2005 with A1 Team Great Britain, said: "I’m torn, I think it’s giving women opportunities that wouldn’t necessarily have an opportunity otherwise, and it’s a lot of money.
"You can win like half a million pounds, I’ve even thought about it, but at the end of the day I’m sticking to my morals. It’s not really morals, but I think we should be racing against the best but segregating us is in a way a step backward.
“But I think it will showcase some female talent but I honestly don’t think that the best female talent is doing the W Series, you know you’ve got Tatiana (Calderón) and Sophia (Flörsch), people who have said ‘no we are not going to be segregated,’ and I think that if they went and did it they would dominate so I’m interested to see how it unfolds."
Legge is also aware that the female drivers going in the paddock is a huge chance to be showcased, but it could go one of two ways.
“Showcasing the girls and having them around the same paddock will do one of two things, it will either be that mechanics will look at it and be like ‘oh look at those hot girls and they will just objectify and laugh at them,’ or they will take them seriously and see that they are doing a good job and give them a good opportunity," she added.
"I hope it does open doors and opportunities for them and that they don’t get written off by serious teams because of it… it’s going to be a science experiment.”
But Legge is not convinced that the sport is doing the right thing in having a ‘show-pony’ female driver to represent the whole female group.
She said: "I’ve been watching Jamie Chadwick in Formula 3 this past year and I think they have to be really careful because she’s not been doing as well in that as she had been doing in the W Series.
“And so if she is their ‘show-pony’ so to say, putting her in the general population and not performing kind of makes all of the other (drivers) look like they would be lower than that level. So I really hope that that’s just an anomaly."
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