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"Long Beach is the most special moment of my career" - Katherine Legge joins racing legends on Motorsports Walk of Fame

"The emotion was surreal" - A chat with Katherine Legge about her breakthrough win at Long Beach, what it means for her to break barriers as well as her new partnership for the upcoming Indy500, as she is inducted in the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame.

Katherine Legge, 2024 Long Beach Motorsport Walk of Fame
Photo credits: Mike Levitt for LAT

During a public ceremony on Thursday, April 18, British racing star Katherine Legge was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, an achievement that recognizes the outstanding career of a racing driver that continues to break barriers after almost 20 years at the top of international motorsports.

“Our Motorsports Walk of Fame serves as a lasting tribute to the legends who have left a memorable mark on Long Beach and the racing community", said Mayor Rex Richardson, as the City of Long Beach announced Legge as one of the two 2024 honorees. She is the first ever woman to be inducted in the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame.

During the open-to-the-public ceremony, Katherine unveiled a 22-inch bronze medallion featuring a description of some of her major achievements and contribution to the sport - including her breakthrough win that catapulted her career onto the global stage for the first time, sparking international recognition.

It was the 2005 Long Beach Grand Prix, and Katherine Legge, in her first Stateside racing season, claimed a remarkable success in the Atlantic Championship race, becoming the first woman to win a major North American open-wheel race.

"The emotion was surreal", Katherine told us when asked about what she remembers the most about that success. "The pride of my dad and Kevin Kalkhoven and his family. The opportunity to race in the USA, everything about it was amazing and special."

Katherine Legge, 2024 Long Beach Motorsport Walk of Fame
Photo credits: Mike Levitt for LAT

We asked her if she could recall any other moments that she felt had changed the course of your career later on. "Good question", she replied. "None as much as this but yes many smaller pivotal moments."

"There have been times I haven’t finished on the podium but I’ve been just as proud of my efforts and made few mistakes and thought I got the most out of the car", she continued. "I can’t think of examples off the top of my head."

For Legge, who would end up becoming one of the most established racers in the world, with a resumé featuring some of the world's top racing series and events including a F1 test, the induction in the Walk of Fame still feels like a surreal moment.

"Honestly it’s been so meaningful to me, it’s a great honor and I’m grateful and proud to be chosen", she told us after the ceremony. "Alongside such an esteemed list of absolute legends I feel a bit out of place! Long Beach is the most special moment of my career and what started everything for me so it will always be incredibly special."

While the race victory in the Atlantic Championship gained her initial acclaim, Legge would achieve many more firsts throughout her career: she was the first woman to lead a Champ Car race one year later in 2006, brought the Acura NSX its first global victory in 2017 and continues to be one of the drivers to beat in sports car competitions.

Legge, at the same time, has always been one of those drivers that only wanted to be judged by on track results – and her achievements speak for themselves.

"I think it’s special regardless of gender", she said when asked if being the first woman to be inducted into the Walk of Fame held any extra meaning for her. "But being the first motivates me to help others" – she sensibly added.

With three championships to her name, 6 race wins and 15 podiums, she in fact keeps inspiring the next generations of young women and men – and is certainly not slowing down: on her return to IndyCar ten years after her previous race, Katherine became the fastest woman in the 107 years' history of the Indianapolis 500, when she set a 231.627 mph lap and four-lap 231.070 mph average speed – thus qualifying for her third participation in 2023.

Katherine Legge, 2024 Indianapolis 500 test
Photo credits: Penske Entertainment / Walt Kuhn

Legge aims to top that, as the British ace announced a deal to drive the #51 e.l.f. Honda Dallara for Dale Coyne Racing with RWR at this year's 108th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The deal represents another historic moment for the sport, as e.l.f. Beauty will become the first ever beauty brand serving as primary sponsor in the Indy 500.

"Legge is the embodiment of e.l.f.’s vision", said  Kory  Marchisotto, Chief Marketing Officer of e.l.f. Beauty. “Katherine is a bold disruptor with a kind heart. She is a force driven by positivity, inclusivity and accessibility. She takes to the track motivated to pave the way for future drivers who might not currently see themselves behind the wheel at big races."

The involvement of companies such as e.l.f. Beauty is also testament of a shift in motorsport's audience, as the popularity of the sport is starting to attract traditionally-female oriented brands that probably wouldn't have been targeting motor racing for their marketing campaigns even just five years ago.

"It means everything to me", Legge explained, talking about this partnership. "It’s a brand I can totally relate to and the fact they are seeing the shift in times and backing women in male dominated spaces is incredible."

An elite driver with starts at iconic events such as the Indianapolis 500, the Long Beach GP - where she also conquered a fastest lap in IMSA last year, in arguably one of those moments that showcased her talent regardless of results – 12 participations at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, as well as entries in FIA WEC, DTM, Formula E and NASCAR: not many active athletes can boast such a diverse resumé. One big race is still missing – and we asked her if she had ever thought about making it her next project.

"Yes!" - she immediately replied. And indeed she had almost turned that into reality as well in 2020, when she was supposed to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Richard Mille Racing team LMP2 program. "But then I broke my legs at the start of the season in Paul Ricard," she continued. "I definitely want to experience Le Mans and Bathurst."

Katherine Legge, 2024 Indianapolis 500 test
Photo credits: Penske Entertainment / Chris Jones

There's little doubt that Katherine Legge will continue to impress and deliver in whatever racecar and series, making the most of experience yet retaining her enthusiastic character.

A wealth of experience that would represent a goldmine for every up-and-coming talent.

"I maybe wouldn’t be as quick to jump after every opportunity – realize the ones that would harm instead of help my career" – she reflected, when asked if there was anything that today's Katherine would say to a younger self, when just starting out in the sport.

While Legge won't be racing this year on the streets of Long Beach, having just stepped down from a full time drive in IMSA GTD, the timing of the announcement suggests that we can expect more surprises from the British star.

"Watch this space" – was her comment, leaving room for possibilities. So we will indeed be eagerly awaiting the next developments.



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