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LEGGE: What Could Have Been in Daytona Rollercoaster

Katherine Legge files her first Sportscar365 column following an up-and-down start to IMSA GTD season…

Photo: Alex Wong

Coming to Daytona International Speedway to start the season is always a very exciting time. Starting off with a fresh slate and clean sheet of paper is a good feeling before going into the most challenging endurance race of the year.

The work began immediately across everyone on the team.

The crew spent countless hours fine tuning our JG Wentworth Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 and trying to perfect the setup, and as drivers we tried to provide our input while comparing experiences.

There is so much information and elements to cover, including seat fittings, reviewing data and videos, trying to determine our tire degradation levels, and attempting to examine how we measure up in comparison to our competitors. It is a lot to review in such a short period of time.

I had complete faith in our crew and our strategy, and I genuinely believed that this was the year that all the pieces would come together and we could make it happen.

After 12 years of trying to get the victory, I had never felt like I had been in such a solid, competitive position as we were this time around. I wanted it so badly, just like everybody else on the team.

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

As the green flag waved to kick off the next 24 hours, it quickly became a balancing act for me. I wanted to be competitive and maintain a good position, but I was also trying to be conservative to ensure we didn’t make contact with others.

Although we weren’t the fastest car in the field, it was clear that we did have the speed and competitiveness to be in the main fight.

Sheena Monk’s first double stint went great, we remained in the top ten throughout and everything looked like it was going according to plan. However, problems began to arise when she reported on the radio that the car had stopped running, as though the throttle was unresponsive.

We managed to limp back into pit lane and the team quickly began to examine what was wrong. The ECU was changed, as were the throttle sensors. At this point we were multiple laps down before we were able to get back out on track, but we hadn’t lost hope since we were only eight or nine hours into the race. I was optimistic that we could recover, even if it meant taking greater strategy risks.

The work on the car continued, and as the early hours of the morning approached, the tiredness set in and we were all a little deflated. It felt like a punch to the gut because the reality began to set in that we weren’t going to get the result we had worked so hard for.

We still wanted to salvage some important points for the championship, so Stevan McAleer got back in the car and we were ready to try our best. We were thrown another curveball when debris from another competitor ended up hitting our Acura and caused damage to the front of our car, impacting our performance drastically.

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Roughly an hour later the electrical gremlins had come back to haunt us, and we had reached a point where there was nothing more we could do.

The team was frantically trying to locate the source of the problem, but determined that it was best to retire the car for safety reasons.

It took us a few days post-race to come to terms with what happened and what could have been.

I genuinely believed that this was the year that we would win it. I’m still bitterly disappointed, but I also know that this is a part of racing, and sometimes racing breaks your heart but you just have to pick yourself back up and keep on keeping on.

Despite the outcome, our time at Daytona was still an incredibly valuable experience. We will head to Sebring with a renewed vengeance and a hunger for more.

I hope I get the opportunity to race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona again next year, and hopefully we will be in a strong position again. In the meantime, we will keep pushing.

Katherine Legge is a former open-wheel standout turned sports car racing star, driving for Acura customer team Gradient Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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