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Female Team to Compete in Major Car Race in Daytona, Florida


Katherine Legge of England waits to drive during a test session at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. Legge is part of an all-female-driver team racing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona later this month. (AP Photo/Mark Long)
Female Team to Compete in Major Car Race in Daytona, Florida
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Many car racing teams have rich supporters with ideas that sound too good to be true. Most of the ideas fail before the cars even make it to the track.

Jackie Heinricher, however, has had success with her idea. She has formed an all-female team of drivers. The team will take part in an important race this month. It is called the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It is one of the most respected races of its kind in the world.

As the name suggests, the race lasts 24 hours testing the driver and the car to the limit.

Heinricher’s dream became a reality when the company Caterpillar agreed to be her sponsor. She also partnered with Meyer Shank Racing and signed up top racers.

British driver Katherine Legge is one of them. "I am scared, a little bit," she said. "I am scared that it will be gimmicky and we won't be taken seriously. That's why we have the drivers we have, that's why we are going with a professional team, that's why we made sure we had everything to do it right.”

Heinricher is a scientist who formerly served with the United States Air Force. She established a biotech company, Booshoot Technology, based in Sun Valley, Idaho. She is also an independent race car driver who pays to race against professional drivers.

Heinricher is a racing fan who often cheered for female drivers. Just like many of them, she was angered by the difficulty they find in moving up in the industry. Heinricher grew tired of seeing such women leave the U.S. for Europe’s racing industry.

"I started having this vision to bring these top women professionals together to race a season together," Heinricher said.

Team owner Jackie Heinricher, left, talks with Katherine Legge, of England, during a test session at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, January 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Long)
Team owner Jackie Heinricher, left, talks with Katherine Legge, of England, during a test session at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, January 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Long)

Legge was part of carmaker Lotus' noncompetitive return to IndyCar racing. She also was the announced driver for an Indianapolis 500 team that was going to be formed entirely of women. But, that never happened.

Legge knew about Heinricher's idea for two years. She agreed to join because it appeared that the plan would really happen.

Legge was already part of Meyer Shank Racing, and her Acura team won twice last season. It finished second overall in its category.

Heinricher’s team includes Legge, who is the full-time driver of the car. Simona de Silvestro, known as the Swiss Missile, is another member. Brazilian Bia Figueiredo is the only woman to have won several Indy Lights races. Completing the team is Christina Nielsen, from Denmark. She is a two-time International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) champion.

The team has more combined experience and success than Danica Patrick, the most famous female racer of this generation.

Cars don’t know if you are a man or a woman

Heinricher's team believes it as a chance to expand racing possibilities for women. Catherine Legge said she hopes the team will provide girls with an example to follow in racing.

Nielsen said she and Legg like to repeat the saying, “’Once you are behind the wheel, the car can't tell if it is a man or woman driving.’"

Heinricher still plans to be one of the drivers this season. She knows Legge worries about an effort that might set women back in racing. She believes this project will be different.

Heinricher has a real race team, but Legge believes judgment will still be based on results.

"One race is not going to be gimmicky or not gimmicky, but over the season if we finish last every race, absolutely that would be gimmicky," Legge said. "But that's not going to happen with the people we've put in place."

I’m Caty Weaver.

Jenna Fryer reported this story for AP. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

track - n. an often circular path or road that is used for racing​

sponsor - n. an organization that gives money to an athlete for training, clothes, equipment, etc., in return for the right to use the athlete for advertising​

scared - adj. fearful of something : nervous or frightened​

gimmicky - adj. trickiness to get people's attention or to sell something​

category - n. a group of people or things that are similar in some way​

absolutely - adv. completely or totally

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