New all-female team, Grace Autosport, announced Friday at IMS

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Beth Paretta, who has spent a significant amount of time in several motorsports programs, and Katherine Legge, who has had diverse motorsports driving experience in open-wheel and sports car racing, were on hand at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to announce Grace Autosport, which seeks to be the first all-female team in motorsports.

The full news release is below.

More to follow later today following the press conference at IMS.

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Grace Autosport logo (PRNewsFoto/Grace Autosport)

Grace Autosport, the first all-female IndyCar Series racing team, announced their plans today to compete in 100th the running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. From team owner to race engineers to aerodynamicists to the driver to marketing and public relations directors, the women of Grace Autosport will be on the grid for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 29, 2016.

Grace Autosport will spearhead a one-of-a-kind racing program with a focused educational initiative, which looks to create and inspire future champions and leaders in motorsport. The goal of this pioneering all-female racing team is not only to empower women in motorsport, but to encourage a new generation of women to pursue careers in STEM (science/technology/engineering/math). Grace also hopes its program and platform attracts a new fan base to IndyCar racing and the Indianapolis 500 race, the largest sporting event in the world.

“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been the scene for many automotive firsts,” said Grace Team Principal, Beth Paretta of The Paretta Company and former motorsports director for SRT Motorsports/Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. “It makes it so special to have the opportunity to launch our team here. For us, true success will be measured by how many girls and women we can encourage to pursue a STEM career. Having said that, we are here to win and our goal is within 10 years to make sure a woman’s face will grace the BorgWarner trophy.”

Katherine Legge, a two-time Indy 500 competitor, has been named as the inaugural driver. Her firsts as a female racer has spanned single-seater and sports car racing. The native Brit’s diverse racing history includes British Formula Fords, Toyota Atlantics, Champ Car/IndyCar, IMSA sports cars, DTM and Formula E racing.

“I am very proud to be a part of this new and exciting team.  To me it’s more than just racing, it’s the start of something much bigger; a movement within the sport,” said Legge. “This is something I’ve been very passionate about for a very long time. Racing is my life-long passion and the drive to compete in the Indy 500 has been there since the very beginning. Being able to combine my enthusiasm for racing with the goal of empowering young women to pursue STEM subjects is a dream come true.  It will be interesting to see it all unfold from the beginning and I have no doubt we will be successful.”

Additional team members include: Catherine Crawford, aerodynamicist, principal of Crawford Composites and one of the few women around the globe supervising a race team, which she currently does in the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship; Lauren Elkins, motorsports engineer, track support technician and data analysis manager, who brings multiple years in IndyCar and sports car racing to the team; Jessica Rowe, a junior design engineer with a variety of race experience, both at track and in the design office; and Barbara Burns, a skilled motorsport professional specializing in communications, public relations, event management and media training for young professional athletes and drivers.

“It is wonderful to see an inspirational team with such an impressive depth of experience and knowledge,” said Michele Mouton, President of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission. “The fact the team is led by women in many of the key roles showcases the fact everyone can have a place in motorsport. Equality is there. Young women should be encouraged to seek the opportunities; this team again demonstrates that gender does not have to be a barrier in relation to success in all areas of racing.”

Grace Autosport will continue to provide updates with regards to team sponsors and personnel in the months to come. For more information, please visit www.graceautosport.com.

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.