Ladies in waiting for Indy 500

The increasing number of women driving high-power racing machines continues to grow worldwide and for this year’s running of the Indianapolis 500, there will be four lady racers to take the green flag on Sunday.

Ladies in waiting for Indy 500
Listen to this article

When Janet Guthrie broke the gender barrier for the Indianapolis 500 in 1976, her effort received world-wide attention. Until then, racing was a man’s world and women couldn’t even be in the pits. Since then, the world and customs have changed dramatically for the better and women are substantively involved in racing not just as drivers but as engineers, crew members, owners, officials and in just about every capacity you can name.

While Guthrie was the pioneer, it took the likes of Lyn St. James and Danica Patrick to make it commonplace for women to succeed in the sport. St. James, who has the most race starts, earned rookie honors at Indianapolis in 1992 and Patrick electrified fans and a nationwide audience when she came close to winning the 500 in 2005.

Patrick has moved on to NASCAR circles, and the baton has been passed to the likes of Switzerland’s Simona de Silvestro, Great Britain’s Pippa Mann and Katherine Legge and Brazil’s Ana Beatriz, all of whom qualified for the 2013 edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

De Silvestro is the best known of the quartet and she’s been a regular campaigner in the IZOD IndyCar Series for four years running. Switching teams in the off-season, de Silvestro has shined in 2013. Having teammate Tony Kanaan alongside has been quite beneficial to her; until now, she has been involved with single-car teams and had no one to exchange ideas with.

Simona de Silvestro, KV Racing
Simona de Silvestro, KV Racing

Photo by: Jay Alley

She drives the Nuclear Entergy Areva KVRT Chevrolet for KV Racing Technology.

The 24-year old Swiss driver qualified 24th, and she’s eager for the race to start. “I am looking forward to Sunday and it should be fun,” she said. “The excitement is building and as a driver, you want to go racing.”

She says she has reviewed previous races, trying to learn as much as she can from videos and notes accumulated. “I go into this race, seeing how it plays out and then work from there.” A year ago, she drove an underpowered Lotus but for 2013, she has a more potent Chevrolet engine behind her. “This year is much more fun, and we are much more competitive.”

Being competitive has triggered an outpouring of fan support, which pleases de Silvestro. “It is pretty exciting and is cool, as they must like what I am doing on the race track.” she said. She also credits Kanaan with her progress on ovals. “This week, I feel like a giant sponge talking to him. I also know I have to take it step by step. I really enjoy working with him.”

With racing banned in her native country, her parents and fans have difficulty seeing her race, but many, including her father and mother, will be in Indianapolis this weekend. She believes it would benefit young people if they had a place to race.

Beatriz, 28, will be in her fourth 500, and with each one, she feels more comfortable with the speeds and the traffic. “I am still calm but come Sunday morning, I may feel otherwise,” she said. “About an hour before the race, I will start focusing in and forgetting about everything other than the race.”

She will drive the Ipiranga Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing.

Leading up to the race, she said she will review previous races, endeavoring to pick up things that can be done differently or better. “Whatever you can do to save time and your energy is good,” she added. “Having been here four years, I am more relaxed and confident.”

She is starting in the tenth row, so she knows she has to be careful at the start. “We cannot do magic and when you try to do magic, things can happen,” she said. “I don’t want to get stuck into the wall on the second lap. If there are opportunities, I will try to take advantage of them.”

Justin Wilson and Pippa Mann
Justin Wilson and Pippa Mann

Photo by: Jay Alley

In a unique occurrence, Beatriz has two teammates, veteran driver Justin Wilson and Mann. Mann and Beatriz have similar tastes in car set-ups, allowing them to freely exchange notes.

Beatriz feels she will know about her race needs after Carb Day. “For Carb Day, I will have my new Honda engine and will see what happens with it.”

Mann, 29, is riding on a cloud with her ride, one that only came together late in the game. “I am thrilled to be back here,” she said. “It is so great to be back in an IndyCar at Indianapolis. Standing around last year just about killed me. I am so grateful to Dale Coyne Racing and Cyclops Gear.com for giving me this opportunity. It is a tough world out there with the economy to put together a sponsorship package.”

She only got into the car for the first time less than a week ago, but she got up to speed quickly. “I like the new car, and the handling is close to that I experienced two years ago with Conquest Racing. Being with a small team, we ran with the rear end moving around a bit, so the transition to the chassis where the rear moves around has made for an easier transition for me.”

Mann has been reviewing her notes from 2011 but with a year-off in between races, she finds it will be more of a challenge. “As a part-timer and still almost a rookie, I will be trying to work on many things, including my pit stops. If I was full-time, I would be much better.”

Teammates have been a big plus for Mann and the exchange of information has been an asset to her.

For the race, her goal is to stay out of trouble and be on the lead lap. “If we could somehow sneak up into the top 15, I think that is a realistic goal for me.” She intends to be conservative on the start and not take any chances.

Legge, 32, hooked up with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at the last hour, and she’s thrilled to have landed the ride. “I am very excited about this weekend, even though the deal came together at the last moment,” she said. “They have given me a great car, and I just have to drive it. The car is very comfortable and drivable. The team has given me all the tools I need. Tenth place is a goal that I think I can reach.”

Katherine Legge
Katherine Legge

Photo by: Jay Alley

Starting from the 33rd and final starting position, Legge knows she has a challenge to overcome but she’s not overwhelmed. “There are worse places to start,” she commented. “You can just sit back and figure out what’s happening before you can start moving forward.” She did express concern about being lapped early in the race, but she plans on protecting her equipment and battling the turbulence in the early going.

With two long-distance races under her belt, she is relieved to have had that experience to draw upon. “The race really starts at the end, and you have to be ready to go. With the experience I have gained, I am more confident and relaxed.” She indicated she is benefiting from a veteran crew, many of whom she has worked with for several years in various series. “I am lucky to have these guys, and we jelled right away.”

Justin Wilson and Simon Pagenaud have given Legge numerous tips that she believes will help her.

The odds of any of the four winning the race are high, but with any luck, they can each foresee a creditable finish with more to come.

shares
comments
Boston Marathon participants to complete run at Indy on Sunday
Previous article

Boston Marathon participants to complete run at Indy on Sunday

Next article

Carlos Munoz does double duty in Dallara dream rides

Carlos Munoz does double duty in Dallara dream rides
Load comments
Ranking the top 10 IndyCar drivers of 2021 Prime

Ranking the top 10 IndyCar drivers of 2021

In an enthralling 2021 IndyCar campaign, the series bounced back from its COVID-19 truncated year prior and series sophomore Alex Palou defeated both the established order and his fellow young guns to clinch a maiden title. It capped a remarkable season with plenty of standout performers

IndyCar
Nov 22, 2021
How Marcus Ericsson finally unlocked his potential in IndyCar Prime

How Marcus Ericsson finally unlocked his potential in IndyCar

Marcus Ericsson enjoyed a breakout year in the IndyCar Series in 2021, winning twice and finishing sixth in points with Chip Ganassi Racing. How did he finally unlock the potential that was masked by five years of toil in Formula 1 with Caterham and Sauber/Alfa Romeo?

IndyCar
Nov 16, 2021
Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing win Prime

Remembering Dan Wheldon and his last and most amazing win

Saturday, Oct. 16th, marks the 10th anniversary Dan Wheldon’s death. David Malsher-Lopez pays tribute, then asks Wheldon’s race engineer from 2011, Todd Malloy, to recall that magical second victory at the Indianapolis 500.

IndyCar
Oct 16, 2021
Have Harvey and RLL formed IndyCar’s next winning match-up? Prime

Have Harvey and RLL formed IndyCar’s next winning match-up?

Jack Harvey’s move to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing sparked plenty of debate, but their combined strength could prove golden, says David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Oct 15, 2021
Why Kyle Kirkwood is America's new IndyCar ace-in-waiting Prime

Why Kyle Kirkwood is America's new IndyCar ace-in-waiting

Kyle Kirkwood, the record-setting junior formula driver, sealed the Indy Lights championship last weekend. But despite an absurdly strong résumé and scholarship money, his next move is far from clear. By David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Oct 6, 2021
2021 IndyCar title is just the start for Ganassi's newest star Prime

2021 IndyCar title is just the start for Ganassi's newest star

Alex Palou has captured Chip Ganassi Racing's 14th IndyCar drivers' championship, and in truly stellar manner. David Malsher-Lopez explains what made the Palou-Ganassi combo so potent so soon.

IndyCar
Sep 28, 2021
Why Grosjean's oval commitment shows he's serious about IndyCar Prime

Why Grosjean's oval commitment shows he's serious about IndyCar

One of motorsport’s worst-kept secrets now out in the open, and Romain Grosjean has been confirmed as an Andretti Autosport IndyCar driver in 2022. It marks a remarkable turnaround after the abrupt end to his Formula 1 career, and is a firm indication of his commitment to challenge for the IndyCar Series title  

IndyCar
Sep 24, 2021
IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch Prime

IndyCar’s longest silly-season is still at fever pitch

The 2021 IndyCar silly season is one of the silliest of all, but it’s satisfying to see so many talented drivers in play – including Callum Ilott. David Malsher-Lopez reports.

IndyCar
Sep 11, 2021