By Amy Tennery
(Reuters) - Taking on a 24-hour road race is a gruelling challenge for any elite driver but for British veteran Katherine Legge and her all-female racing team Saturday's start of the Rolex 24 at Daytona carries deeper meaning.
A year after making headlines with her racing team in the GTD category at Daytona, part of the informal Triple Crown of endurance racing, Legge has returned to one of America's iconic tracks for another tilt at sportscar class honours.
"It’s the hardest race, I think, to win because everything has to go your way," said Legge, running down a laundry list of potential on-track calamities including breakdowns and collisions. "There’s a lot of luck involved. It makes it even more special."
A bit of bad luck hit Legge's team last year in the form of a torrential downpour, hampering their speed around the track en route to a 15th-place finish in her class.
The 39-year-old, who has competed in the event six times, is now a veteran of the challenges a 24-hour race presents, managing the pre-race pressure with military-like precision.
"If I’ve been really disciplined about when I go to bed and when I get up and I don’t feel tired going into the 24 hours, then I’m coming in with a fighting chance," said Legge.
Leading her second consecutive all-female, four-driver team at Daytona, Legge has built her reputation as a tough operator who fits in with the male-dominated world of motor racing, while simultaneously working to promote women in the sport.
"I fought for my whole career - which has been 14 years of professional racing - going, ‘I’m not different; treat me the same (as the men)... and giving up a lot of things that would be normally female to be treated the same," said Legge.
Her Lamborghini racing team 'GEAR' stands for "Girl Empowerment Around Racing," reflecting her passion for bringing women into racing as well as science, technology, engineering and math.
"When you're a little girl -- I didn’t think I could be a racecar driver," said Legge. "I didn’t think I couldn’t either but it didn’t cross my mind because I didn’t see anybody else really doing it.
"So I’m saying, ‘Hey, we’re no different’ but I’m showcasing the fact that we have talent (and) we can do the same job as the guys."
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris)