Curations: A pre-season crash didn’t slow down the all-women Richard Mille Racing Team as it made its mark in motorsports
But the crash ended Legge’s first season of driving for the team before it even began: she broke her lower left leg and right wrist, leaving her unable to compete in the five-race series.
The Richard Mille Racing Team was shaken by the incident, and also by the idea of debuting in the prestigious endurance racing series without their captain. But the team decided to push on, and Dutch newcomer Beitske Visser was chosen to replace Legge, who stayed on as captain and strategist.
The women of the Richard Mille Racing Team finished in the top 10 of their class in the European Le Mans Series. Photo: Richard Mille
In 2018, the German driver was in a horrific crash at the Macau Grand Prix that left her with a fractured spine. After an 11-hour surgery, she was determined to return to the track, yet faced a lot of skepticism. But she kept her goal simple, telling the BBC a month after the crash: “I just want to be the best driver. I think the woman part comes by itself.”
In that spirit, Floersch, Visser and Colombian driver Tatiana Calderón went full throttle through the early setbacks to put in strong performances during the European Le Mans Series, with the team ultimately finishing 10th overall in the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class. But it was at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race held in September where the new line-up truly proved their mettle.
The 88th annual race in France, which takes place separately from the European Le Mans Series, has been called the “Grand Prix of endurance and efficiency” because it is the ultimate test of drivers’ abilities – controlling a powerful machine at top speeds over thousands of kilometres while concentrating on tyre and fuel management, all while battling physical exhaustion. The race is also a test of teamwork, as it requires strategy and communication to change drivers throughout the 24 hours.
The women of the Richard Mille Racing Team, all rookies in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, answered this challenge with a history-making performance. As the first all-women line-up to compete in the LMP2 class, Calderón, Floersch and Visser put in clean and mistake-free racing that led the team to finish ninth in its class and 13th overall.
“Every lap of the track was a real challenge in itself, other than driving in day and night conditions,“ Calderón said. ”We learned something with every lap, and I really believe that all three of us have gained a huge amount of experience.”
After 24 Hours of Le Mans, the team was feeling confident and ready to return to the European Le Mans Series and take on the Monza circuit near Milan, a tricky course known as the “Temple of Speed”. All three drivers were able to pool their knowledge from previous races on the Italian circuit as single-seater drivers in order to secure a finish in the top 10.
The trio then faced the final race of the 2020 European Le Mans Series at the Algarve circuit in Portimão, Portugal. Despite an engine issue that forced the team to start further back from the pole, Calderón, Floersch and Visser were able to finish in 11th place and maintain the team’s spot in the LMP2 top 10 for the overall series.
As the racing series came to an end for the year, Calderón said: “I’m very thankful for this incredible opportunity, it’s been a privilege to be part of this amazing team. We always want more, and we will continue to push hard and see what the future holds for us.”
The Richard Mille Racing Team is already looking towards an even more successful second season. Legge recently shared with fans on social media that she was nearly fully recovered and working to regain her strength to resume driving in 2021.
- After team captain Katherine Legge was injured before the first race of the European Le Mans Series, she moved to the sidelines to run strategy and was replaced behind the wheel by Beitske Visser
- The revamped line-up of drivers had their first triumph together at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, finishing ninth in their prototype class and 13th overall