Katherine Legge is feeling a different kind of pressure this week.
As an elite female driver in a male-centric sport, the Briton has grown accustomed to challenging stereotypes in the workplace. She’s also familiar with carrying the hopes, often in solitude, for the female fans and athletes who want to see themselves represented with skill and dignity in motor racing.
With the addition of three more top-tier female pilots in the No. 57 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 team — Simona De Silvestro, Bia Figueiredo, and Christina Nielsen — the expectations have reached an unprecedented height. Joined by an all-star cast in the entry co-owned by businesswoman/driver Jackie Heinricher, Legge has recruited a group that is capable of winning the coveted Rolex 24 At Daytona in the GT Daytona class.
The four drivers, along with Heinricher and co-owner Michael Shank, are acutely aware of the ramifications they face in Daytona. Standing on the podium could open doors for more women in the sport, and anything that resembles a poor finishing position could have the opposite effect, reinforcing old and tired gender stereotypes.
While most teams focus on achieving victory at the Rolex 24, Legge and the squad she’s assembled have a different threshold of success to meet. In a category with 23 cars, MSR’s No. 57 entry is the only one of its kind; with all of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s women in one vehicle, it also makes for long odds with an all-male armada spread across the other 22 GTD contenders
That pressure — to make a positive statement for every young girl or woman who wants to race — will be inescapable throughout the event for the No. 57 squad.
“Each and every one of us — and I include Mike Shank in this as well — is 100 percent conscious that this has to succeed; otherwise, it’s detrimental to what we’re trying to achieve,” Legge told RACER. “What I mean by that is this: We’re going out there and saying, ‘Hey, look. We’ve put together the best women drivers in the world. We did.’ I sat together with Jackie and Mike to come up with the list, and really, it was a no brainer.
“Simona and Bia and Christina, they’re the best in my opinion, and there are some other young females that are up and coming, but for this level, for what we wanted, there was absolutely no question about our line-up. We have the best, and we’re racing for something bigger than wins, as that too is something we carry with us at Daytona.”