Legge to take legal action over Dragon firing
14 February 2013
British driver Katherine Legge has lashed out against Dragon Racing and its co-owner Jay Penske, and said she will take legal action against the team over their decision to replace her in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship with Sebastian Saavedra.
"I am extremely disappointed that Dragon Racing and sponsor TrueCar have announced a replacement IndyCar driver for the #6 car," Legge said in a statement on Wednesday.
"This has come as a huge shock," she admitted. "I firmly believe that Dragon Racing and TrueCar cannot proceed without me and I will be taking legal action to protect my rights."
Legge revealed that she had signed a two-year contract with sponsors TrueCar that covered 2012 and 2013, which she then subsequently brought to the Dragon Racing team to fund her two full seasons. She said that she had been given no cause for her firing by either TrueCar or team co-owner Jay Penske.
"I received a letter from Dragon Racing, terminating my services on January the 18th," she said. "My legal team had asked for details regarding the reasoning for this termination but none have been provided.
"I was very much looking forward to 2013, using the experience I gained last year as a spring board for greater success," she added. "It was a very difficult season last year, we did very little testing and I was made to sit out of some of the races."
That was a reference to the difficulties the team experienced after an acrimonious split in May 2012 with original engine suppliers Lotus, which left Dragon with a single-engine-only deal with Chevrolet that had to be shared between her and the team's other driver, Sebastien Bourdais.
Legge had been confident of a second year in IndyCar, clearly believing that even if Dragon went for a different driver she would be able to take the TrueCar 'Women Empowered Initiative' sponsorship with her to another team. Instead, the team's announcement on Tuesday made it clear that TrueCar would be staying on as sponsors of Legg's replacement at Dragon, Colombia's Sebastian Saavedra.
Legge fumed that she had no idea where TrueCar and its CEO now stood on the initiative that had been specifically designed to give a financial boost to women drivers in competitive motorsports.
"I can tell you that I feel like I have been treated very unfairly in all of this and the last thing I feel at the moment is 'Empowered!'" she said. "Scott Painter told the press on numerous occasions that it was a two-year deal with me and how he believed women could race on an equal footing with the guys."
With the collapse of her TrueCar/Dragon deal, Legge's prospects of putting together any kind of race program for 2013 now look very bleak, as the 32-year-old herself admitted.
"I am working feverishly to put something together; however, having this happen so late in the game has made it virtually impossible," she said. "I have fought very hard, every step of my career, to get the opportunities that I have created for myself and I will continue to do so.
"I am also not sure whether IndyCar will take a stand on my behalf," she added. "I am unsure of whether there is anything they can do apart from lend me their support."
Until she was dropped by Dragon she had been working hard to secure the extra sponsorship funding needed by the team to run the second car in 2013 alongside Bourdais.
"I have spent most of this off-season trying to help TrueCar mitigate their costs and bring sponsors onboard with their Initiative, having invested a great deal of my own time, effort and money," she said, before lashing out personally at team co-owner Jay Penske.
"Jay Penske's actions in Nantucket really hurt my ability to find additional and personal sponsors, and it was highly embarrassing, especially with the message that we were trying to portray regarding the empowerment of women in motorsport," she said, referring to Penske's arrest last August on charges of breaking and entering, along with his older brother Mark.
Responding to Legge's threat of legal action, Dragon Racing issued a brief statement refuting the driver's main charges.
"Both Dragon Racing and TrueCar have tried to amicably resolve this matter with Legge and her representatives to no avail," the statement said. "Aside of acknowledging the existence of the dispute, due to the confidential nature of the dispute, neither of the parties will be making any further public statements regarding this matter, but both TrueCar and Dragon Racing have ample confidence that they will undoubtedly prevail."
As for the original decision to replace Legge, Dragon Racing's Executive Vice President Paul Woolnough said that: "Our primary sponsor and Dragon Racing have decided it is best for the team to move in a different direction for the upcoming season."
TrueCar CEO Scott Painter was also quoted on the team press release, echoing similar sentiments about the decision to replace Legge with Saavedra in 2013.
"We have thoroughly enjoyed our association with Katherine, but after 12 months of collaboration, hardwork, and TrueCar's sincere efforts to resurrect Katherine's openwheel career, TrueCar has decided to pursue a different driver for 2013 IndyCar season," said Painter.
"We've had to make some difficult choices this offseason, based on the goal of winning races and doing what is best our partners, sponsors, and team," said Jay Penske. "I adamantly believe with the experience of our crew, our engineers, drivers, and the tremendous support of our partners, we have a team in 2013 that can compete for the championship."
The Dragon Racing press release also tried for a conciliatory tone by wishing Legge all the best for the future.
“We are thankful for the contributions Katherine Legge has made during her time at Dragon Racing," said Woolnough. "We wish Katherine her the best in her future racing endeavours."