Jackie Heinricher says her newly-announced partnership with Meyer Shank Racing which will bring an all-female driving lineup to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is among the biggest accomplishment in her professional life.
The program will see Heinricher joined for the full season by Katherine Legge, while ex-IndyCar drivers Simona de Silvestro and Ana Beatriz will join them for the long distance events in an MSR-prepared Acura NSX GT3 Evo that will compete under the Heinricher Racing banner with sponsorship from engineering giant Caterpillar.
It has been a rapid ascent to the pinnacle of North American sports car racing for Heinricher, a recent Lamborghini Super Trofeo competitor, who discovered her love for motorsports relatively late in life after making a name for herself in the scientific and business fields.
Throughout her climb to the WeatherTech Championship, Heinricher says she has held a goal to create an opportunity to promote women in both the motorsports and scientific fields.
While plans to put an all-female driver lineup together for this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona in a Wayne Taylor Racing-run Lamborghini Huracan GT3 failed to materialize, it did not halt Heinricher’s dreams of breaking new barriers.
“I’ve had this long-held vision to put this program together,” she told Sportscar365.
“I started a couple of years ago, realized it was quite hard to put together, and had to dig hard and use work ethic and a lot of tenacity and perseverance.
“It was about timing and finding the right partners and using my business hat to do that. That’s how I got to this type of partnership.
“I’m also a scientist and [Caterpillar] is about science and engineering. It’s legitimate role models, showing that you can race cars, you can be a scientist, you can do other things, all with a lot of credibility.
“I think for [Caterpillar], it’s a very important message.”
Shank “Super Proud” of All-Female Initiative
Team co-owner Michael Shank credited Heinricher for forging the partnerships that made the program possible and noted that the timing was perfect for just such an initiative.
“I’m super proud of that,” he told Sportscar365. “Jackie Heinricher really did a great job with her concept, selling her concept, and it just lined up with today’s climate I think. It made it relevant.
“I think the best thing I’ve ever heard, and Katherine uses this all the time, is that the car doesn’t know who’s driving it, what sex that person is.
“I think she’s proved this year that it doesn’t really matter. It’s one of the few sports that we do in the U.S. where men and women compete equally, but I think what we announced today sends a broader statement.”
Shank acknowledged that growing pains would be inevitable, but stressed that the expectations for the team remain high.
“Katherine will knock it out of the ballpark, there’s no question about that,” he said. “From on track performance, we’re going to do everything that we can to get them as prepared as we can.
“We want to finish in the top five before long. It’s going to take a little bit to get everything jelled, but there’s no reason why we can’t compete for top fives soon.”
Heinricher Excited for Steep Learning Curve
For her part, Heinricher admitted to having some nerves about the undertaking, but she said MSR’s support system has her confident she will be as prepared as possible for the challenge ahead.
“Bringing it to this series was the intimidating part for me because I’ve been in gentlemen series, and other gentlemen drivers have done this of course, but for some reason I’m feeling a bit nervous about it, ” she said.
“I have the best teachers and we have this amazing car with Meyer Shank Racing. It should be really exciting.
“To me, I feel like this is a really important deal for this series because you’re bringing a partnership that, at this point, has not entered something like this. I’m proud to be the unlikely one that could sort this out.
“Of course I’m drinking from a fire hose, but I’m that lucky person. There’s no doubt that I have a lot of work to do.
“We’ve scheduled a lot of testing to work out the things that I need to figure out. I think that that’s one of the great things about this entire partnership: everybody wants to be on board.”
Heinricher is slated to get her first laps in MSR’s Acura NSX GT3 Evo during a private test at Daytona later this month.