It will be an emotional start for Britain"s Indy lady after Wheldon tragedy

It's an emotional start for Britain's Indy lady in the wake of Wheldon tragedy



23:02 GMT, 23 March 2012

Katherine Legge of England

Katherine Legge of England

The IndyCar season gets underway in St Petersburg, Florida, once the home of British-born driver Dan Wheldon, who died aged 33 in a horrific crash in Las Vegas last October.

His sister Holly will start the race and the city has honoured Dan's memory by naming a street Dan Wheldon Way. Britain's Katherine Legge will be on the starting grid.

LAURA WILLIAMSON speaks to the 31-year-old Dragon Racing driver, the first woman to win an open-wheel race in America…

I had known Dan since I was nine. We raced go-karts together and I regret I didn't get to know him better.

It was difficult to believe the accident happened. It was just awful and my thoughts and prayers are with all the Wheldons.

As a driver you take risks knowingly and you prepare yourself and your friends and family for those risks – and how they would react if something happened. It's a selfish sport in that respect. Sunday will be tough and emotional.

I'm sure Bernie Ecclestone would love to have a fast female driver in F1. But do the people believe we can do it Has anybody actually proved we can do it Until somebody gets the opportunity in a competitive car – because most females only get chances in the slower ones – how will we know

I think there could be a female driver in F1 within the next decade. Why not Providing the right woman comes along. But unlike IndyCar it's a worldwide series and there would be different pressures on female drivers in places like the Middle East.

Katherine Legge

Katherine Legge

However, racing is the only sport in the world women can compete with men on an equal footing. There is absolutely no physical barrier. It's tough, of course. It's two hours of being battered inside a race car but it's about repetitive strength and not so much about power. You do need upper body strength and neck strength but it's not how much weight you have to cope with.

I drove a Champ Car in 2006-07 and a lot of people consider that more physical than F1. I think there's also been a study done on how people responded to G-force and it was proved women can sustain more G-force than men for longer.

It's part of the job that you don't really look very feminine. I've got big arms, a big neck and big shoulders. My fiance is a driver as well, although luckily he drives sports cars so we don't race against each other. That would be difficult!

IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon

Tragic loss: IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon

When I first came to America in 2003 I
was a bit of a novelty. There were more good opportunities at that stage
because I was female, but it ended up evening itself out. It helps to
open doors but when it comes to closing them it can be a hindrance. They
think again; it's a mentality factor. You are going to get more press
coverage because you are different but then a lot of people making the
decisions still don't know if a woman can actually do it. I hated it,
that novelty factor. You want to be a racing car driver, not a girl
racing driver.

I came back to the States because it's one of the only places you can compete on an equal footing. I love it; it's the land of opportunity. IndyCar is as close to F1 as you can get and I decided, before I got too old, I was going to try to make a career here.

I feel like here, in every aspect of life, there's equality.

It's pretty much the same in England but we don't see it in the rest of the world.

Here, I feel like if you want something to happen you can work hard to make it happen. It would be the ultimate dream to do well in IndyCar this year.