Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy series latest challenge for racer Katherine Legge
Champ Car, sports cars and go-karts. IndyCar, NASCAR and Formula E.
If there's a racing circuit with four wheels, driver Katherine Legge either has conquered it or wants to try. Now Legge's racing journey has taken her to the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy series -- one of her most different, but fun, circuits yet.
The series, which wraps up its inaugural 10-race season with the championship July 13 and 14 in Brooklyn, New York, features 20 drivers and teams racing Jaguar I-Pace SV cars. The cars use a 90 kilowatt hour (kWh) lithium ion battery and reach max speeds of 121 mph.
For Legge, the series offers a unique opportunity to experience something new, and the electric car is unlike anything she has ever driven.
"This is the first year of the series, so nobody had ever driven anything like this," Legge said. "It was totally new to everybody. [The car] is obviously totally silent being electric. We race on all street courses -- that's pretty cool. I've driven street courses a number of times, and I love them."
This weekend, Legge and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Bryan Sellers will spend the last two days of the season in Brooklyn attempting to master the unfamiliar territory of the new circuit. Sellers is second in the points standings heading into the final races, just six points behind Sergio Jiminez of Jaguar Brazil Racing.
"That's been one of the fun things about everything is that all the tracks have been new," Sellers, a 36-year-old Ohio native, said. "We haven't been to any of them, so you're having to learn all the intricacies -- the pavement changes, the shapes -- and learn them as quickly as possible to see if you can find a way to use that to your benefit. Brooklyn looks extremely different than a lot of the other ones we've been on. There's a lot of corners. It looks very tight. It looks like it's probably fairly bumpy, and the temperatures are going to be through the roof, which changes the grip levels on the track."
In 2016, Jaguar joined the ABB FIA Formula E series, making the company the first premium car manufacturer to do so. Two years later, the company made history after announcing the development of the world's first all-electric production-based international race series.
What makes the series unique is that the cars Legge and her competitors raced around the world this season are the same award-winning electric Jaguar I-Pace vehicles available for purchase by any consumer.
"The technology that we learn on the racetrack is transferred to the cars that you drive on the road," Legge said. "Basically, we race the same cars. So you can go and buy one of these cars that have been developed. Jaguar is showcasing the vehicle and what it's capable of doing and developing it for the future.
"It's not only a cool sport where you get to see us race wheel-to-wheel, but it's also an exhibition of what Jaguar is capable of. I think electric is the future of motor vehicles. I don't think that we'll ever get rid of turbo engines or normal powertrains, but I think there will be more and more electric versions of cars coming."
Racing in the series has been a fun challenge for Legge. It was her chance to prove that, once again, adjusting to a different style of racing would be no problem.
In February, she did just that.
At the second race of the season in Mexico, Legge became the first woman to win a professional electric car race after outracing Sellers to the finish line.
The uniqueness and challenge of the series, and the many other circuits in which she has been involved, are what keeps racing fun for Legge, who turns 39 on Friday. Legge's love for racing began when she discovered go-karts as a 9-year-old growing up in Guildford, England.
"We were on a family vacation in Spain, and my dad and my uncle had a go on the fun kart, and I wanted to have a go too because I was a bit of a tomboy and an adrenaline junkie when I was a child," Legge said. "I just fell in love with it. When we got back to England, my dad got a go-kart for him, and I just nagged him until he finally gave in and got me one."
Shortly after, Legge and her father found themselves traveling around the country with Legge participating in races. Although she loved racing, being good enough to turn her passion into a professional career wasn't something she ever considered.
"I don't think I ever really knew I could make it as a racing driver," Legge said. "At the time, there was really no female role models racing, especially in Europe. But I just wanted to, and I kept trying."
Legge eventually proved that racing was more than just a hobby. She was a fierce competitor whose talent, skills and wins led to a scholarship in race car driving. Legge's big break wasn't until 2005, when the then-24-year-old came to the United States and, with the help of Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven, entered the Toyota Atlantic Championship as one of 15 rookies that year.
Legge quickly made an impression at the series opener in Long Beach, California, as she became the first woman in history to win a major open-wheel race in North America. Legge earned two more victories and five podiums the remainder of the season.
She spent three successful seasons in the U.S. before joining the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) series in 2008. In 2012, she made her way back to America to race in the IndyCar Series. Through the years, she dabbled in a variety of series, including NASCAR, before joining the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy series for its inaugural season.
"I think she leaves out a lot of details of what she's actually been able to accomplish," Sellers said. "In reality, there are two women worldwide that have made an impact in the sport. One of them was Danica Patrick, and the other is Katherine. I think that when you really look at it, a lot of times people rate Katherine as the best woman in the sport. In my opinion, without a doubt, that's true. But I think the bigger picture is how good she actually is in general, not just up against the women. She's one of the best sports car drivers in the world, not just one of the best women."
Legge's unwavering spirit and devotion to the sport are what keep her motivated.
"It's my never-give-up personality," Legge said. "I want to race as long as I can. I just enjoy it. I enjoy driving the cars. I enjoy racing, every time, going out and getting better at it. I have good friends in racing. I think when the passion dies, it's time to hang up the helmet. At this level, it's still fun and exhilarating. When it becomes not fun anymore, I think that'll be the time I know I need to quit."