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Legge debuts with a splash in Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Katherine Legge won her Toyota
Atlantic debut Sunday, surviving a collision to become the first
woman to win a race in the developmental series for the Champ Car
World Series.

The 25-year-old Englishwoman started seventh in the 19-car field
and was able to continue after colliding on the sixth lap with
Fernando Rees, another of the 15 rookies in the lineup. It was the
first major open-wheel win for a woman since Desire Wilson won an
Aurora Formula One race at Brands Hatch in England in 1980, the
year Legge was born.

She took the lead with just over two laps remaining in the
32-lap event in the streets of downtown Long Beach when leader
Rocky Moran Jr. slowed with a mechanical problem. Legge then held
off PKV Racing teammate and fellow rookie Antoine Bessette, who
started from the pole, for the victory by about three car-lengths.

The best previous finish by a woman in the Atlantic series was a
pair of seconds by Danica Patrick, a rookie this season in the IndyCar Series.

"It's been a lifelong ambition of mine to be here right now,''
said Legge, who grew up near the Silverstone racetrack north of
London and began her career in go-karts.

She met team owner Kevin Kalkhoven when he went to England to
complete a deal to buy the Cosworth engine company and talked him
into giving her a test.

"I did the test in Phoenix and Kevin gave me the ride,'' Legge
said. "I'm just fortunate I found Kevin and PKV.''

The team worked until the early morning hours to repair her car
after Legge crashed late in the Saturday qualifying session.

"I didn't even think about winning at the start,'' Legge said.
"I was just concentrating on getting past the car ahead of me.''

Legge spent last season driving in the North American Formula
Renault series, finishing 10th, after driving in British F3 in
2003.

Charles Zwolsman, another rookie, had to start from the rear of
the field after getting knocked off the pole Saturday by a
technical violation. The driver from The Netherlands charged back
to finish third, just ahead of Chris Dyson.