Katherine Legge and Sheena Monk rally to sixth place finish at Lime Rock Park
"Today feels like a win for us" - with Sheena Monk's consistency, Katherine Legge's masterful recovery, and the team's perfect execution and strategy, the drivers of the JG Wentworth Acura extracted every bit of performance to charge from last to sixth at Lime Rock Park
Gradient Racing’s Katherine Legge and Sheena Monk have maintained their run of strong performances in the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship with a brilliant race at Lime Rock Park. The weekend began in challenging fashion for the #66 Acura NSX, but Katherine and Sheena showed excellent race pace to finish sixth in GTD, just ten seconds away from the class win.
Lime Rock Park features the shortest lap of the year at less than one and a half miles and therefore small margins were a given in the opening two practice sessions. Katherine and Sheena finished first practice 14th in GTD completing 53 laps and less than a second away from the quickest time. More valuable data was gathered in second practice with a 15th place result in GTD as the Gradient Racing drivers took their practice lap tally to 99 laps across both sessions.
Sheena was targeting further progress in qualifying and took full advantage of the 15-minute session, remaining on track throughout. Her lap times were consistent and Monk improved by seven tenths of a second from her best practice time, ending the session 15th in GTD.
The Gradient Racing driver found over two seconds of improvement from the end of first practice to qualifying, highlighting her continued progress in the Acura NSX.
"An absolutely abysmal weekend since we are so far outside the performance window of the other manufacturers", she wrote after qualifying. "The race will be an uphill battle but Kat and I are going full send."
Aiming for a trademark fast start from 15th on the GTD grid, Sheena gained one position on the opening lap passing the Wright Motorsports Porsche of Alan Brynjolfsson and set about chasing down the group ahead. The Gradient Racing driver continued to improve her lap times in the early stages and got within half a second of her qualifying benchmark.
The second half of Sheena’s stint was characterised by a strong defensive drive in which she maintained her position with Brynjolfsson putting her under considerable pressure. Monk dealt with this challenge superbly and kept the Wright Motorsports driver behind her as the full course yellow was displayed on lap 42, elevating the #66 Acura NSX to 12th in GTD.
Sheena pitted under the full course yellow period and initially remained in the car with her drive time not yet completed, however a smart strategy call from the Gradient Racing team led to Monk pitting a second time at the conclusion of the full course yellow to hand over to Katherine.
Legge took over the #66 Acura NSX in 13th, but with the majority of teams ahead having not completed their driver change, this was to be a potential advantage in the second half of the race. Legge was quickly on the move at the restart, progressing into 11th within five laps of the restart. The Gradient Racing driver then displayed her speed by maintaining pace with the leading group of drivers, showing significantly improved pace from practice.
On lap 64, Katherine remained less than ten seconds away from the GTD class lead and with some smart moves at the end of her first stint, made her final planned stop from eighth position. Setting consecutive personal best laps following her pit stop, a second full course yellow period was well-timed for Gradient Racing as Katherine remained on track to inherit seventh position.
Despite Legge dropping one position to eighth on the restart, her final stint was remarkably impressive and she quickly set about regaining lost time. Moving ahead of both Aaron Telitz and Mikael Grenier, Katherine was into sixth by lap 126 and was within touching distance of a top-5 finish. Fighting off a hard-charging Seb Priaulx in the closing stages, Legge crossed the line in sixth position and ended the two-hour-forty-minute race just ten seconds away from the GTD class victory.
Both Katherine and Sheena displayed brilliant character across the weekend, recovering from early setbacks to achieve a highly respectable finish. Sheena maximised her performance on a challenging weekend and this proved to be decisive as her improvements allowed a great foundation to be set for Katherine in the second half of the race.
"Today feels like a win for us—given that we took a car that really shouldn't have finished in sixth place and put it there", Legge said after what it felt like a masterclass drive. "That was really due to immaculate execution of everything by the team."
"We struggle here [at Lime Rock], especially with the new rules with the [minimum] tire pressures and the cambers", she explained. "We struggle with understeer here, it's not a track where we're normally strong. And so for us to finish sixth is massively positive. Kudos to all the guys for great pit stops and for executing everything well and us hanging in there!"
Legge showed excellent consistency during the race and took full advantage of opportunities which were presented to her and coupled with a great strategy, allowed the Gradient Racing team to collect their second top-six finish in the last three races. Katherine and Sheena will be looking to build on this momentum when the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship visits Road America on the weekend of 5th/6th August.