The entire Claro/TracFone DeltaWing Racing Cars team has been busy since its last TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race in Monterey, California. The team conducted a three-day test at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans, while drivers Katherine Legge and Memo Rojas also worked on programs designed to impact more than just the racing world. The team now looks forward to its return to racing action in this weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen – an event that holds good memories for Rojas and team manager Tim Keene.
The DeltaWing team chose to conduct a three-day test at NOLA Motorsports Park instead of competing in the TUDOR event in Detroit. The team ran endurance tests, experimented with different race set ups, and broke in a new, lighter tub. Keene was encouraged by the results.
“We wanted to go out and actually try to break things, to really pound the car. We’ve had tests before where we ran without issues, then got to the race track and had things break. Running hard over a three-day test, we knew some of those things would pop up and they did. We had some electronic and some driveline things that came up and we’ve made some improvements on those systems. We also ran parts a lot longer than we would have on a race weekend. Since we make most of our own parts, we have to come up with our own mileage limits, and we have some better ideas on that now.
“We did driver changes, pit stops – more than we would have done if we’d been at Detroit. It was also good to run through all these things with (race engineer) Catherine Crawford. This is only her second test with us, so it was good for her to really see what the car would need in certain situations. Plus, the weather really changed a great deal, from cool and cloudy to rain, to unbelievably hot. It’s good to see the car in all those conditions. Now it’s just a matter of becoming more competitive, to put ourselves in a position to be able to use race strategy and performance to get a win.”
A new team – and a new concept – joined the motorsport ranks last month, as Grace Autosport announced plans for an all-female team to race in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 next year, with Legge handling driving duties and Crawford as aerodynamicist. For Legge, it’s an opportunity to expand on the work she’s done with the Girl Scouts to encourage young women toward STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers.
”This initiative is very close to my heart, just like the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, which I have been a part of since the outset. Grace Autosport will help provide young women a ladder system to get into racing – and will provide more positive role models. There are female drivers, but there are also really great female engineers out there; Catherine is one of the best engineers I’ve ever worked with. So we’re trying to showcase motorsports and STEM-related careers and encourage women to have an interest. According to automakers, soon there will be more engineering jobs than people to fill them. The gender gap really is closing; I’ve seen that in my lifetime in my work as a Girl Scouts STEM Ambassador. We hope we can help continue that.
“We’ve had an enormous amount of encouragement. Dr. P (DeltaWing Managing Partner Don Panoz) has been very supportive; this wouldn’t have happened without him. DeltaWing is my main focus but he knows I want to do the Indy 500 and he’s been very supportive of that. He’s been instrumental in STEM areas in his life and he’s been wonderful for advice. It all fits together quite well.”
Rojas has joined the Carlos Slim Foundation’s “Drivers for Road Safety 2015” program. Supported by the Mexican government, the Ministry of Transportation, the FIA and Scuderia TELMEX, the program raises awareness among young people about risk factors and safety measures.
Rojas and other professional racing drivers conduct lectures in high schools and universities across Mexico, sharing their experiences and discussing ways that students can remain safe behind the wheel. For Rojas, it’s a chance to make a real impact in someone’s life.
“Car accidents are the No. 1cause of death in Mexico for people 15 to 35 years old. There’s a lack of education about the rules of the road. It’s not a popular subject to talk about. But the way we’re doing it makes it more interesting, with the drivers going to the schools to speak directly with the kids. It makes it cool. The talks are fun – the kids interact with us and it turns an unpopular subject into something the kids are enjoying but at the same time, they’re listening. And every time I leave one of those conferences, I have the feeling that I am saving lives and that’s very rewarding. If at least one of those kids paid attention to me, maybe I saved a life today.”
Watkins Glen Memories for Keene and Rojas
Keene and Rojas have a very successful history at Watkins Glen, with Rolex Sports Car Series victories at the historic venue in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Just what is it about the historic road course that makes it such a popular sports car racing setting?
“It’s a different sort of race,” said Rojas. “It is an endurance race, but it’s short enough that you have a sprint race rhythm and pace. It’s hard on drivers and teams but it’s especially hard to stay out of trouble. When everyone is driving 100%, on the limit the entire time, we don’t leave a big margin for error. If you have a big mistake, it’s hard to make it up in only six hours. But the track is like a roller coaster – my favorite tracks are the ones that have good elevation changes and The Glen is certainly one of them.”
“Even though it’s a six-hour race, it goes by pretty quickly,” said Keene. “The pace is fast. It’s a six-hour sprint race; you’re on it from start to finish. And it’s my favorite track in North America, because of the landscape, the flow of the track. It’s one of the most historic tracks in the country. It races really well and I’m sure driving it would be mega. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love driving here and to do it at a top level, to be at the front of the grid is a good feeling.”
Qualifying for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen will be Saturday from 3:40 to 5:10 p.m. ET on IMSA.com, with the race televised live on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on FOX Sports 1 and 2 to 4:30 p.m. on FOX Sports 2.