Katherine Legge struck a blow for the fairer sex - and for Britain - by claiming victory in the opening round of the Toyota Atlantic series in Long Beach.
The former F3 racer made steady progress up through the field from her seventh qualifying position, before assuming top spot three laps from home when veteran - and leading C2 class runner - Rocky Moran Jr suffered a broken wheel bearing that dropped him back to fourth and, eventually, out of the race.
Legge's success was momentous as she became the first female to win an Atlantic event, eclipsing current IRL driver Danica Patrick's efforts of the past two seasons. Indeed, the 24-year old's success was the first for a woman in any major US open-wheel race, overshadowing the efforts of Sarah Fisher and Lyn St James, and elevating her onto a similar platform to sportscar driver Milka Duno, who last year became the first woman to win a major sportscar event when she shared Grand-Am success with co-driver Andy Wallace.
“What a fantastic race and I'm just so happy for my team - they did an unbelievable job,” said Legge, who only joined Polestar Racing Group in March, “I don't think this has quite sunk in yet. It's been a life-long ambition of mine to be sitting in this spot, and I'm very thankful to Kevin Kalkhoven and PKV Racing for giving me this opportunity. And I'm awesomely grateful to Polestar.
“There were a few full-course yellows and it was a long race, but I knew I had time. I didn't even think about winning, I just wanted to stay out of trouble. I had a good start, but I just let Rocky go. I knew I had enough car for him. Hopefully, this will encourage more young girls to get into the sport."
Pole winner Antoine Bessette, who led through to lap 26 of 32, and Charles Zwolsman, who initially occupied the front of the grid before being found guilty of a technical infringement, completed the podium, the Dutch driver having battled from plumb last at the start. Legge held off Polestar Racing team-mate Bessette to the flag by just half a second.
“I'm very happy with my performance and the performance of my car," the runner-up commented, "The track was excellent - but I wish it had stayed green! I was trying to stay clean and I think I did.
Bessette started from the pole and was able to stay clear of an incident at the green flag that involved Andreas Wirth, who started second, and Tonis Kasemets, who lined up sixth at the start. Wirth was forced to retire as a result of the contact while Kasemets lasted 15 laps before his day was done.
"For me, I think it was a good start, but I had bad luck with traffic," Bessette continued, "I got off-line to get around traffic and both the cars behind me had a good line and got past me.”