News that Dragon Racing has secured a one-off second Chevrolet engine deal
for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma later this month means that the squad will be back to a two-car line-up for the first time since the Indianapolis 500, and British driver Katherine Legge will be back in a car at a road course for the first time since the race at Sao Paulo, Brazil in April.
"We're so grateful to Chevrolet because without them we'd be in a really bad place right now," said Legge of the opportunity to join team mate Sebastien Bourdais at Sonoma. "They've been the knights in shining armour, if you want. They came to our rescue.
"It was really disappointing when Sebastian and myself couldn't do all of the races each," she said in a telephone conference with reporters on Wednesday. "It was planned to run two cars for the full season. Yeah, I'm just really, really looking forward to getting back in the car."
Dragon started the season with Lotus engines but then acrimoniously split with the engine manufacturer early in May. The team was able to get a late engine deal with Chevrolet, but other than Indy it was for one engine only, meaning that the two drivers have had to split the events between them: Bourdais ended up taking the road course events, and Legge the oval races.
Legge has still been going to the street and road course races in order to support the team and fulfil sponsorship duties for backers TrueCar, but she admitted that it hasn't been an easy position to be in: "It's tough being at the track and not driving because obviously as a racer you just want to be out there, you want to be driving, you want to be competing. But they've kept me busy," she said.
"They have me doing a lot of other things," she added. "I've been trying to learn as much as I can outside the car for next year because Mid-Ohio, Edmonton, Toronto, they're all places that I think we're going back to, although I'm not entirely sure, so if I can learn anything now for next year, that's good."
Somona is the home race for TrueCar, an innovative online car dealership that is supporting six female racing drivers including Legge in their respective careers through its Women Empowered Initiative, which is why it was so important for the racer from Guildford to get a chance to take part in the race on August 26.
"I think it's really a ground-breaking initiative that TrueCar is doing, supporting the six of us, endeavouring to get us the best equipment to succeed," said Legge. It's definitely very cool to have a family atmosphere towards it. We're helping each other out, speaking to each other.
"It's not going to happen overnight that all six of us are on the podium," she pointed out. "It's a process, and TrueCar understand that. I think TrueCar are very happy that we're on schedule with our improvements and our progress."
Somona is also the home event for Bourdais' main sponsors, internet security specialists McAfee, which is what made the call over who got the single engine for the race so difficult - and the team's jubilation when Chevrolet stepped in to provide a second power unit for the race.
"Obviously, with Sonoma being such a big one for both myself and Sebastian sponsorship-wise, it's my home race with TrueCar [and] on Sebastian's side there's the McAfee thing," she explained. "Chevy are just doing us a huge favor in stretching their own resources to help us out.
"All the other [TrueCar initiative] girls are going to be there. Virgin has come onboard. We have lots of fun media stuff we're doing. And they're based there, as well. For us it's like the biggest race of the year."
There's still the small matter of getting used to the track however. Once called Sears Point, and most recently going by the name of Infineon Raceway until the end of a ten-year naming rights deal in June, Somona is virtually completely new ground for Legge.
"I did about 20 laps of Sonoma back when Sebastian was testing there about a month ago. that was really just to kind of do a shake-down," she said. "Luckily we have the test there next week.
"I've just been training physically to get ready for it," she explained. "I've been driving on the simulator. I've been watching YouTube videos. I asked the team to send me some data. I mean, I'm doing everything outside of the car that I can possibly do. There's no substitute for actually driving the car."
The Sonoma track layout will feature a few new tweaks to it
this year to help improve overtaking opportunities after a very static race in 2011. Understandably, Legge had no view of the changes given her lack of previous race experience here.
"I can't really comment on how it's going to affect it racing-wise or anything like that," she said. "But I have to believe that the powers that be know what they're doing and they've made the changes for the better. I don't think they would change it for the worst, or at least I hope they wouldn't. I think it will probably be a good thing."
And after Sonoma, there will be only two more races remaining in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season: Bourdais will drive for Dragon at the road course in Baltimore, on September 2 and then Legge gets to drive in the season finale at Fontana two weeks later.
"Yes, I'll definitely be driving Fontana, the last race of the year. And Baltimore at the moment is scheduled to be Sebastian. Unless anything changes, that's the plan," confirmed Legge.