The recent fallout between Mark Ruggieri’s Girl Empowerment Around Racing program and the team that ran the GEAR effort in IMSA, Gottfried Grasser’s Grasser Racing Team, has resulted in collateral damage for the series.
With GEAR and GRT unable to resolve their fractured business relationship, WeatherTech SportsCar Championship veteran Katherine Legge and two-time IMSA GT Daytona champion Christina Nielsen will be missing from this weekend’s event at Daytona International Speedway.
For Legge, the failure of GEAR/GRT to continue beyond the season-opening race at Daytona in January marks the end of a sports car streak that began in 2013; for Denmark’s Nielsen, it halts her regular presence dating back to 2014.
“We’re really sad not to be there,” Legge told RACER. “I know I’ve been looking forward to it; throughout the quarantine, going back to racing was the shining light at the end of the tunnel. We’re in talks with the series to find a way to come back by Road America at the end of July. I know IMSA really wants us there right now, but there are no offers at the moment to accept.”
The absence of North American road racing’s two most prominent women comes at an inopportune time as most racing series are looking for ways to increase diversity and create more opportunities for women and people of color in the sport.
“At this time of uncertainty and change in the world, we were really hoping we’d still have our place on the grid,”Legge said. “I’m proud of the all-female initiatives we’ve been able to put on the grid for the last year and a half, and I know Christina and I aren’t giving up.
“Nothing has drawn more attention than having the presence of women as drivers, as owners, and members of the pit crews. We want our series to continue to be more reflective of the world around us, to include more minorities, and I hope it’s being recognized by others.”
Legge looks forward to continuing the work she and Nielsen have produced within IMSA.
“I’ve always just tried to be a race car driver, first, and will continue to work hard at being the best I can be in the car, and then keep building on bringing more girls to the track to show them what’s possible here,” she said. “We’re trying to do something bigger, Christina and I, to get back in the seat in IMSA so we can keep working on changing what the future for girls looks like.”