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Legge gets full-time Champ Car ride for '06

Katherine Legge said she was "shocked and overwhelmed" after
being given a full-time ride in the Champ Car Series for 2006.

Legge, a three-time winner last year as a rookie in the Toyota
Atlantic Series, will drive a Lola-Cosworth for the PKV Racing team
owned by 1996 series champion Jimmy Vasser, Champ Car co-owner
Kevin Kalkhoven and Dan Pettit.

"I'm very excited," the 25-year-old Englishwoman said in a
telephone interview with The Associated Press before the official
announcement was made Tuesday night in Los Angeles. "It's going to
be hard and it's going to be interesting, but it's about long-term
not just about 2006.

"Really, though, I'm quite surprised to be in this situation
this soon.

"I just want to get to Long Beach and get through that race,"
she added, referring to the season-opening race April 9.

She will join Lyn St. James as the only female regular in what
was the CART series prior to 2003. St. James ran 15 races in the
1990s, but never won.

A year ago, Legge showed up for the Atlantics race in Long Beach
a virtual unknown who had talked Kalkhoven into giving her a
chance. She won her debut and quickly had people comparing her to
Danica Patrick, the 22-year-old rookie who made headlines in the
rival Indy Racing League last year.

"I've said all along that I don't really want to be compared to
Danica," Legge said. "Hopefully, she'll be competitive in the IRL
and we'll both move the whole women's racing thing forward.

"As far as I'm concerned, you just have to work hard and be
competitive. I'm not going to play the gender game. I just want to
take advantage of the opportunity I'm being given and do the best
job I can."

Kalkhoven, who has not yet decided if the team will run two or
three cars in 2006, said Champ Car isn't interesting in getting
into a competition with the IRL over whose female driver is better.

"The important thing is that she be a professional driver and,
in her case, she'll be a very professional lady driver," he said.
"We're not looking for a single phenomenon, female or otherwise,
to do anything for Champ Car."

Kalkhoven said the team is prepared to be patient with its new
driver.

"It's been our experience that it's taken Atlantics drivers
three years to get competitive," he said.

Asked why he decided to move Legge up to the big series instead
of giving her a second year in Atlantics, Kalkhoven said, "She
earned it."

"Each of the trials and test we gave her, she passed," he
said. "She was successful in Atlantics. In a two-day test in
Sebring (Fla.), she was as fast or faster than the male drivers we
were testing. Then, we ran her in a simulated race in Sebring to
see if she could handle these brutes in the second hour, when
drivers get tired and it's harder to drive the car.

"She did very well in all of that."