Katherine Legge

“See you in Indy.”

Those were the words Katherine Legge heard from Kevin “Rocket” Blanch, INDYCAR’s technical director, as the sun set after a hot and windy Monday at Texas Motor Speedway.

Legge stepped into the cockpit of the No. 44 Hendrickson Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and logged an estimated 150 laps around the 1.5-mile superspeedway. The refresher and evaluation were all part of preparations ahead of her attempt at the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on May 28. In all, it was a successful reintroduction to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES after a decade away, with her last race being the 2013 Indianapolis 500.

“It's been a great day, honestly,” Legge said. “We've learnt a bunch. We managed to do a lot. I got up to speed progressively. I wanted to be smart about how I got back in and back up to speed, but I still feel like it came back relatively quickly, and I felt pretty comfortable. The team did an awesome job making me feel comfortable and yeah, happy days.”

While a lot was different for Legge compared to her last time behind an INDYCAR SERIES car, she adapted quickly, according to her race engineer, Mike Armbrester, who was the performance engineer for Takuma Sato’s win at the “500” in 2020.

“We spent a day in the simulator last week just to try and get used to each other and to get her acclimated to how we do things, how our controls on the steering wheel work, that kind of stuff,” Armbrester said. “The weight jacker control is a lot different than it used to be. It's more sophisticated now than it was back then. It's been 10 years since she drove a Honda (INDYCAR SERIES) car, so some of the Honda engine controls and stuff are different.

“She got up to speed really quickly in the simulator, and then (Monday), it didn't take her long at all. It's like riding a bicycle. She got right back into it. We had five sets of tires to use, expecting maybe we use two to get her up to speed. And by the time we got through to the second set of new tires, she was ready to go.”

Legge wasn’t alone at TMS, either, with reigning INDY NXT by Firestone champion Linus Lundqvist also on track as part of a driver test through the team in the No. 45 Honda, normally occupied by series sophomore Christian Lundgaard. Additionally, Lundgaard was on hand to offer advice and coaching to the pair.

Much of the day consisted of single-car runs, but near the end there were a couple of occasions that allowed Legge and Lundqvist to run together for a handful of laps at a time.

“It was very critical, and we appreciate INDYCAR's help with that,” Armbrester said. “Certainly, there's a big balance shift between running alone and running behind one car and then again between running behind one car and running behind four or five. But just to get a taste of what it's like behind one car so she has some idea what's going to be coming at her when we go to Indy in a couple weeks and she's in a pack is very, very helpful.”

Overall, the opportunity to get acclimated behind the wheel but also with another car on track helped raise Legge’s confidence level. The next task for the Briton as part of preparations for a return to Month of May festivities will be the Open Test on April 20-21 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and she already has sights set on areas to work on.

“I'm going to do some pit stop practice with the guys,” said Legge, 42, who also races an Acura NSX GT3 full time with Gradient Racing in the GTD class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“I felt pretty comfortable out there running. It's just the procedural stuff; getting used to the wheel, where all the buttons are, getting used to using all your tools, the in and out laps, and the pit lane stuff.”

This year will mark Legge’s third attempt at “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” She has 39 INDYCAR SERIES starts under her belt, with a best finish of sixth (twice – Milwaukee, 2006; Las Vegas Grand Prix, 2007).

According to Armbrester, there is a plan on how they want to attack the Open Test at IMS, but like everything to this point, in calculated and methodical fashion.

“We have four cars at Indy,” Armbrester said. “We should try and cover as much ground as we can, split our philosophies, go in there a little bit and test some different concepts. At the same time, we need to make sure that she's still comfortable with what we're doing and that we progress to the point where she needs to be so that when we come back in May, she's just like a full fourth member of the team, that we're not lagging behind because she hasn't been in the car in a while.

“So, those two days are going to be critical for us to just continue to work together and build our rapport and build up the line of communication and to again, just build her confidence in driving the car and then our ability to tune it around her.”