American Le Mans Series Media Conference
Topics: American Le Mans Series
May 7, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. In a few moments it will be my pleasure to introduce Katherine Legge into the call here. I want to thank her for taking time out of her testing schedule to join us on the call.
As you know doubt know, she's going to be racing the DeltaWing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend. DeltaWing have put two successful tests under its belt since the last race at Sebring and they're heading to Laguna Seca this weekend with Katherine Legge and Andy Meyrick.
A little background. In 2005 Katherine competed in the Toyota Atlantic Championship in the States and won the series opener at Long Beach. In doing so she became the first woman to win a development series open‑wheel race in North America. She then went on that season to win her second and third races of the season at Edmonton and then at San Jose, California, not far from Monterey, where she'll be racing this weekend. She finished third in the championship that season with three wins and five podiums. She also received the Toyota Atlantic BBS Rising Star Award that year.
The following two seasons she competed in the Champ Car World Series. 2008 to 2010 she went to the DTM Series driving an Audi. In 2012 Katherine signed with Dragon Racing in the IndyCar Series along with Sebastien Bourdais.
As I said a moment ago, she joins Andy Meyrick. The team has just come from successful tests at South Carolina's Roebling Road and most recently, yesterday in fact, at Buttonwillow in Southern California.
So, Katherine, thank you very much for joining us today.
KATHERINE LEGGE: My pleasure. Thanks for having me on the call.
THE MODERATOR: I understand that DeltaWing did over a hundred laps at Roebling Road and Buttonwillow. What did you learn from those two tests.
KATHERINE LEGGE: It was amazing. We got in the car at 9:00 and didn't finish until 6:00. I spoke to my dad and he said, That's the first full‑day testing you've had in years. It was really good. We learned a lot. We felt really confident coming into yesterday's test.
Yesterday's test here at Buttonwillow was a little bit more difficult for us. But still it was a great test. We're still learning. It's still very much developmental. I got a lot of seat time. It was great to meet Andy and go through all the driver change stuff that I have yet to learn.
Yeah, we're expecting good things. I think if we can finish the race in Laguna, we'll be happy moving forward. All the time you're learning and progressing as a team, as a driver, that's our goal for the weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Tell us a little bit about how the DeltaWing opportunity came about for you.
KATHERINE LEGGE: Because I'm so awesome, Don Panoz gave me a call. No, I'm kidding (laughter).
Yeah, most of you probably know the story of how I was supposed to be doing IndyCar this year, but that didn't happen. I was looking at sports cars, primarily because I think next year it's just going to be huge. The sports car series has got some strength. ALMS is something I've always been interested in, constantly spoken to people about over the years. It's definitely something that I was looking at.
I thought now would be a great time to kind of find out who was out there and what the score was over here because it's a different series. It's a whole new world for me, one that I very much wanted to explore. I'm very grateful that DeltaWing provided that opportunity.
It's a cool car. It's got a ton of attention for me and the team. Really couldn't wish for anything better. It's been a fantastic experience. Breath of fresh air. It's been awesome.
THE MODERATOR: Clearly some of the advantages of the DeltaWing with its lower fuel consumption, low tire consumption, would provide an advantage the longer the race goes. Laguna Seca is four hours. Do you have a strategy for a medium‑length race?
KATHERINE LEGGE: No (laughter). I'm going to watch last year's race. We're actually traveling over there today. I know that was six hours. We're going to learn what we can from that.
Really, we have somewhat of a strategy, but it will depend on how fast we are in testing, what we learn in testing. It is, as you say, using less consumables. It's very efficient as a vehicle. We think that pit stop‑wise, it's going to be interesting.
We still have a lot to learn and I still have a lot to learn pit stop‑wise, how long we can go on a stint, whether Andy and I are going to double or single stint, the driver changes. There's so many different variables. We have a plan, but it's a floating plan, if you like.
Hopefully all these races, we'll learn step by step, then you develop your plans into concrete when you know exactly what the variables are. If we do A, B or C, this happens. We don't know that yet. We don't know whether we will have to change tires before we run out of fuel, because we can probably do 45, 50 laps on a tank of fuel.
It's going to be interesting to see in testing what our fuel consumption is, what our tire consumption is, how many stops we'll make compared to other people. That's definitely a huge positive, the efficiency of the DeltaWing, for us in the race.
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to open it up to questions.
Q. Katherine, what has the testing done for you? You mentioned that a couple of times. It seems like in addition to testing the car, you're getting some testing done for Katherine Legge.
KATHERINE LEGGE: Absolutely. It's been a while since I was in a car. It's been ages since I did a full day's testing.
It's confidence building, for sure, as well. It's great to work with a team. Everything has gone smoothly. I'm confident in myself that I've done a really good job.
That builds confidence. It builds experience for me, as well as for the team. I'm learning a great deal driving the car.
It's not really the same way you would drive a conventional car. There's a lot to learn about it. It brakes differently. You roll massive speed into the corner. You have to adapt to that as well.
As much as anything, I'm having fun, a great time. Don Panoz and everybody on the DeltaWing team, I can't thank them enough. It's a fantastic environment to be working in.
Yeah, I'm happy I'm in the car. It's what I do. It's what I love to do. I love to drive. I love to get better as a driver, as well. I'm being given the opportunity to do that, so it means a lot.
Q. Buttonwillow and Roebling Road are nothing like Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. Are these tests as much for you and Andy as they are for getting ready for a track like Laguna?
KATHERINE LEGGE: Roebling Road we did a bit of work. Really it's been more for other things, system checks, engine, things like that. It didn't really matter where we were, to be honest. We didn't learn a great deal at Buttonwillow yesterday about the car and the setup. That was more, again, systems, fuel consumption, tire consumption, just learning about the car, doing driver changes, all that kind of thing.
There is still so much on our testing list that we need to get through, it really didn't matter that it wasn't like Laguna. There were a couple corners that simulated Laguna, we felt.
Q. Nothing like the corkscrew?
KATHERINE LEGGE: Nothing like the corkscrew, absolutely not.
I've driven at Laguna in Champ Car. It was actually the Panoz 2007 when I drove it. It was a test day. We had some issues on the test day, so I didn't do many laps. Trying to figure out how I can get around Laguna before the weekend so I know what I'm doing down into the corkscrew, figure out which way to turn again.
Q. What has been the biggest adjustment in adapting to the DeltaWing? What do you relate it to the most to what you've driven in the past?
KATHERINE LEGGE: I would say probably the biggest adjustment is the sports car series. Most of the time, the only time I drove sports car was 2007 when I did a Daytona 24 Hour race. It's the only time I ever shared a car with anybody. Instead of it being like a race, being in your own car, you have to adjust to working with a teammate, setting the car up together, working together very much more as a team. That's going to be different for me.
There's a whole series you have to do. The pit stop, loosening the belt, the radio, putting it into P1, you have to be very regimented in that. It's just different to what I'm used to.
Actually driving the DeltaWing, the way it brakes is more on the rear of the car. It's like somebody sending a power chute out the back. There's no weight transfer. That's a different sensation.
Again, it's a racecar. After a couple laps, you adapt and get used to it. I thought judging the size of the rear of the car was going to be an issue, but it really isn't.
I think it's most similar to the IndyCar. It's faster in straight line, got great downforce around the corner. Got no downforce from the wings, but it has so much ground effect that you can carry so much speed. It's an impressive car.
But because I have driven so many different types of cars, like the DTM car, Champ Car, IndyCar, GRAND‑AM car, I think I'm quite used to jumping in and adapting to something different 90% of the way, then it's all about fine‑tuning.
It's going to be a new experience for me. You have to be ultra‑focused, learn and absorb as much as you can from the talent around you. The sports car series is really tough. There's so many awesome drivers. Try and learn from them, keep my nose clean as much as possible.
Q. What is your overall strategy for the race?
KATHERINE LEGGE: I think with all the development work that we've been doing, it would be a mini victory for the whole team just to finish the race because every lap you do you learn something. They had some issues in Sebring. I think we need to do the race to learn. We need to do the pit stops, we need to see what the consumption is.
I don't think we have any high hopes of going out there and putting it on the podium or anything like that. I think it's one step at a time, and that's just to learn and to develop the car and to be quicker.
As long as we're improving every step of the way, I think we'll be pretty happy with that.
Q. A philosophical question of where you see the DeltaWing fitting into the sports car world down the line. Do you see it as a supplement or a replacement? What do you think will happen with the car in one year or five years down the line from what you've seen so far?
KATHERINE LEGGE: Wow, that question is way above my pay grade (laughter).
Yeah, I don't know, to be honest. I don't know what the powers that be have envisaged for it. I know it's going to have a class of its own next year. They're busily building cars. One of the goals we have is to prove it's a very viable option for any team. It's an additional class.
What I have noticed is how much attention it gets. Everybody is super interested in the DeltaWing. The general public, the press thinks it's exciting. It is, because it's different and it's new. It's not so new any more, but it's getting better.
I think that one of our objectives for this year is to make it fast and affordable. It represents the green effort that sports cars are putting forward because of its efficiency. So I think in the near future, there's going to be a class next year, and we hope there's going to be three or four cars at least in that. Then moving on from there, who knows. Like I say, that's above my pay grade.
I'm sure Panoz and the people in the sports car series have a plan. I'm just a driver. I get paid to do a job and that's what I intend to do.
Q. What are your plans for the rest of the year? Will you be back in the car or do you have other driving opportunities lined up?
KATHERINE LEGGE: You know, I'm really not sure yet. I'm evaluating what my options are and looking around, seeing what's out there, what I'd enjoy doing. I enjoy doing it. That's a big thing for me. I was kind of miserable last year. I was trying to put a deal together for the Indy 500. I'm still trying to put a deal together to do that. That's important to me. But sports cars is something I'm definitely keen on.
If this turns into an opportunity to do the races for the remainder of the year, it will be something I will look at absolutely seriously and look forward to.
I guess that that's the plan. But, you know, I haven't been in the sports car race yet, ALMS‑wise anyway, for sure. I have a lot to prove from a driving point of view, too. There's a whole different skill set that I need to prove that I have to be taken seriously in sports car racing. I fully intend to do the best job I can and to prove that so teams, Dr. Panoz, and everybody sees me as a viable option.
Q. Katherine, with all your experience, do you believe in momentum? How do good results affect you and your team?
KATHERINE LEGGE: Oh, absolutely I believe in momentum. I think that it goes both ways. When you seem to be stuck in a rut, you can't normally get out of it.
At the moment, there's so much positive momentum going on. I was very down at the beginning of the year, just before the IndyCar season with what happened. I had to pick up the pieces and I had to call everybody I knew and try and get a ride.
It gave me an opportunity to look at sports cars, to be honest. So I've done that and I've created some positive momentum. DeltaWing are doing that at exactly the same time with what they're doing. So I think that it's buoyed both of us. For me it's positive, for them it's positive. We seem to be getting more and more positive. As you say, it's forward momentum.
I want to stay laser focused on that positive momentum and keep it in that direction because I believe that you're happier as a driver, as a person, and the team is well, and that's when you get results, as well.
Q. How long did it take you to change or adapt to the visual perception looking down that steering wheel to the front end of the car?
KATHERINE LEGGE: Oh, not long at all. It's kind of crazy. I was on the phone to Andy for half an hour before I got in the car asking him all sorts of questions that must seem a bit silly now really just because you have a preconceived idea of how it's going to drive by looking at it. It's absolutely nothing like that.
I got in it. Within three laps, having not known the circuit or anything either, I was completely comfortable with it. If somebody blindfolded you and put you in the car, you would adapt and be fine. Everybody would be the same. I don't think that's any special talent that I have or anything like that. I think that's just a driver thing.
I guess your subconscious deals with it, you get on with it, it's not really a big deal.
Q. Do you feel your braking and turning points at Laguna will be much different than they were in your prior cars you raced?
KATHERINE LEGGE: I think in every car they're different. I don't think they'll be that much different, to be honest. Everybody is a bit different. We're going to be that slight bit different, as well. It's not like you'll see us going down the inside of the corners or anything like that. It's not drastic. It's still a racing car at the end of the day.
Q. Relative to your fuel and tires, when you make your stops, you won't be making tire changes as frequently as you would in prior times because of the weight of the car. How will you be able to coordinate fuel and tire stops at the same time?
KATHERINE LEGGE: Well, the plan is, in the ideal world, we can go much longer on a tank of fuel than the other cars. We want the tires to last through a run on a tank of fuel. So maybe even run the tires for two tanks of fuel.
Whether we do that at Laguna or not has yet to be seen because we're probably going to play it somewhat safe. But you would probably expect us to be making less stops than everybody else, yeah.
Q. The equivalency of the car. The times were as fast as a P2 car in the past. You said it was above your pay grade. But let's talk to Katherine Legge the racing fan. Do you think the real value of the car will be lost if the car is pigeonholed into its own class, the idea of lighter weight, more efficiency would be lost in the racing world if we ignore that and look at it as a car on its own?
KATHERINE LEGGE: Oh, no, I don't think so. I think the attractive thing to teams will be the cost and the efficiency. It does garner a lot more attention, so the possibility with sponsors and opening up a whole new world of sponsors also comes onboard.
I think that, yes, it's special. But I don't think it will lose any of the specialness, if that's a word, by being its own class. Because it's got so little drag, I think it will produce really good racing between the cars, as well. You have P1 cars, you have P2 cars, us have GT cars. All of them are great racing cars, great racing series. None of that has been lost because they have their own class. I think it will be exactly the same with the DeltaWing.
Q. You've been practicing without other cars on the track, I'm assuming. You're going to be racing in crowded conditions, slower cars, passing. Is that something that now you have to face, something different you have to deal with this weekend?
KATHERINE LEGGE: Yeah, absolutely. I think it depends on which car it is, as well. From my talking to other drivers, some cars you want to watch out for, you can't be so aggressive with, and other cars you can. They're more aware and more reasonable. That's going to be a whole other learning experience for me, as well, is figuring out where to do the passing, how to do the passing.
When I did Daytona, there were the DP cars, Prototype, and the DT cars. I figured that out quickly. That was a different track. Slightly more tricky. I'm trying to learn as much about that kind of thing off the track before I get there as possible.
But there is no substitute for actually driving the car and figuring it out for yourself. So it's just going to be a really busy weekend for me because I'm going to be learning so much. It's going to be information overload.
Q. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has a number of racing games. Have you ever used games for practice? Have you ever raced Laguna Seca online?
KATHERINE LEGGE: I have a simulator at home, a self‑made one really that stopped working. I'm completely computer illiterate, so I can't figure out how I'm going to get it figured out again.
IRacing, those games, I've learned. I have not done Laguna this time because, as I say, it's broken. I need to find, I don't know, maybe one of the Geek Squad will come over and fix it for me. It was set up for me, worked really well, then I think I probably pushed something wrong. Normally I'm okay with those kinds of things, but this is really technical.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone. Thank you, Katherine. I wanted to mention one thing before we ended the call. Katherine was indicating that DeltaWing might have its own class in the unified series going forward. The plan, of course, is that they will be together, the DeltaWing will be together with Daytona Prototypes and the P2 cars in 2014. I just want to make that clear.
KATHERINE LEGGE: Right.
THE MODERATOR: Once again, thank you for your participation.
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