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What Was It Like? Katherine Legge and the DeltaWing

Legge’s First-Person Account of Driving the Unique Prototype and How it Spurred Her Sports Car Career


By Mark Robinson


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – IMSA.com is introducing a periodic series titled “What Was It Like?” where drivers and others throughout the paddock will speak to special experiences they’ve encountered in their careers.


First up is Katherine Legge and her four-year experience driving the innovative DeltaWing. The unusual-looking prototype with the narrow nose and small front tires was originally designed as a potential IndyCar but the focus shifted to sports car racing, where it ran from 2012-2016 and became a fan favorite.


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Sports car icon Don Panoz fielded the entry in the American Le Mans Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Looking to reboot her racing career, Legge was connected with Panoz by Al Speyer, then the executive director of motorsports for Bridgestone Firestone. She drove the DeltaWing from 2013-2016.


In her own words now, here’s what Legge recalls about that life-changing experience:


“I spoke to Don and I was captivated by him immediately, right? There was nobody like him; he was amazing. So, I had a lot of time and respect for Al, I had a lot of time and respect for Don, and I’d had a bad experience (with an IndyCar team), so I wanted to be somewhere where I was happy. And I thought that the DeltaWing – doing something cool that was a development project – would make me a better driver and it would introduce me to what at the time was the ALMS paddock.


“The DeltaWing, you either loved it or you hated it. I didn’t know what to expect. I know that it was at that time touted as the next (potential) IndyCar, so it tied in really well with me because I thought that there was a chance that it would be the next IndyCar and I would get at it first. I’d also seen its results and its life that followed when it was Nissan before Don took over the project. So, it was just interesting to me, it was something really different and it felt like a happy place to be where I’d learn a whole bunch and get introduced to the sports car paddock.


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“It was really cool to drive. It drove like an IndyCar, honestly. It had two very skinny front tires, but it (drove) super heavy. It got all the downforce from the ground effects underneath the car basically, and it was just like technologically advanced. It was a true prototype, which is what the class was designed to do. The cars were not the same in any way, shape or form.


“I look back on those years super fondly because the team was awesome, the guys were awesome. It was a family. We developed the car into a legitimate contender. In the last year that we did it, we led Daytona – legitimately led Daytona. We were fast and it kept me relevant in a time when I didn’t know what I wanted to do in my life.


“Because we were on this little island of our own, there was definitely a lot of camaraderie. We developed the car really well, in my opinion, over the course of the four years. It was just a little team out of Braselton, Georgia. We didn’t have like a ton of sim work or modeling or aero stuff going on in the background. We did it all ourselves, which is why I think I learned so much. We’d come up with a different wicker design and we’d just throw it on and see whether it worked.


“We made so many really cool things with that car! I can’t even remember most of them, but even in the cockpit I think we were the first to come up with the air being pumped into the seat with the holes in it and things like that. I don’t think anybody else had done that at that time. It was just like a brain wave of (team manager Tim Keene’s) one day. Between everybody, they would come up with ideas and it was a really cool environment to be part of because it wasn’t your traditional (operation). It made you think about things from an engineering and a very practical standpoint, because you’re problem solving all the time, which I loved. It was making you think outside the box a lot.


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“It served its purpose and it had its day. I’m very proud to have been part of that. I totally stand by Don and his decision to do it because, if not him, then who else? We’ve got to do these things to better and further technology. He was just a visionary.


“I saw a Batmobile the other day that looks exactly like it, and I’m like, that’s a knockoff!”