Sunday, 5 February 2017

Kat Teasdale

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Kat with the Bakeracing Corvette

Kathryn Teasdale, known as Kat, was a Canadian driver, born in 1964.

She started out in Formula 2000 in 1988, after having to give up competitive skiing due to a knee  injury. Twenty-four was quite late to begin a racing career, but she quickly made up for lost time. Between her ski injury in 1984 and her Formula Ford debut in 1988, she competed in slalom and autosolo events, sometimes in a Corvette.

Her original aim was to move into the “A” Class of F2000, but instead, she got herself a seat in the televised Player’s GM Motorsport Series, driving a Chevrolet Camaro. She raced in the championship’s East division in 1988 and 1989. She was able to use the Camaro in the IROC-2 series and Trans-Am. Her skill with the Camaro led to her being picked up by the Bakeracing team, for their Corvette programme.

She raced the car in 1991, and one of her best results was in the Escort World Challenge 24 Hour race at Mosport Park. As part of a five-driver team including Boris Said, she was second. Other highlights included a fourth place at Saltillo in Mexico. She was sixth in the Escort World Challenge.

1992 saw her combine sportscar racing with a return to single-seaters. Brian Stewart, an old friend of Kat’s, offered her a test at Vancouver in his Toyota Atlantic car, followed by one race. This never led to a full-time race seat, but she did compete in two Indy Lights races in 1992, driving for the Leading Edge team. At Toronto, her race was halted on the first lap by an electrical problem. She got to the end at Vancouver, in fourteenth place, six laps down. At the time, she knew she was unable to go for wins, but she gave it a shot anyway.

Ever-keen to try new forms of racing and put herself out there, Kat entered the CASCAR stock car series in Canada in 1993. Her car was a Chevrolet. She won the Rookie of the Year prize.

She has raced in Toyota Atlantics, the NASCAR Busch Series, Grand-Am and other championships, in the US and Canada.

1994 was probably her best year for sportscars. She was part of the O’Brien team for the IMSA GT championship, driving a Camaro. Her first race was the Daytona 24 Hours; this was her first attempt at a major US classic. Leigh O’Brien had assembled an all-female team of herself, Kat, Tami Rai Busby, Linda Pobst and Margy Eatwell. They finished the race in 47th. Kat was also a member of Leigh Miller’s team, driving a Porsche 968 with Miller and John Graham. They were seventeenth.

Kat, Leigh O’Brien and Linda Pobst made up the O’Brien team for the Sebring 12 Hours. They were 42nd in their Camaro. Driving solo, Kat was twelfth at Road Atlanta, in the O’Brien Camaro.

Her performance in 1994 led to an offer from the Pontiac factory team for 1995. Kat drove a Firebird with Doug Goad, and they were third and fourth in the IMSA Endurance championship, behind their team-mates, Andy Pilgrim and Joe Varde. This helped Pontiac to the manufacturer’s title. Kat and Andy Pilgrim teamed up for the 1996 season. Results for the IMSA Endurance series are proving hard to find, and they may not have raced together all year, as Andy Pilgrim was on duty in the IMSA GT championship as well.

1997 saw a new challenge for Kat: another try at stock cars. This time, she was driving for her own team, Katco Racing. The car was a Chevrolet. She entered two NASCAR K&N Busch Series East races, and began well, qualifying sixth at Watkins Glen. Unfortunately, she did not finish due to problems with the car’s transmission. She did manage to finish the race at Lime Rock, and was awarded 29th place, although she was several laps down.

During her last season in 1998, she drove a limited programme in the NASCAR Busch Series. She was the first woman to do so, although others had raced in other NASCAR sanctioned events. She did not qualify for the Watkins Glen race, but she just made it on to the Milwaukee grid, in 40th place. She finished in 31st place. This particular Busch Series race was no schedule-filler; Dale Earnhardt Jr won, and Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth were among the other finishers.

Kat intended to pursue NASCAR further after her first Busch event, but it was not to be. She retired from motorsport after the 1998 season, due to ill-health. For some years, she carried on working in investment and event planning, as she had done to help fund her racing. She bred Wirehaired Pointing Griffon dogs and was involved in charity fundraising.

She died in June 2016, aged 51, after a “long struggle with physical and mental health issues”, caused by Lyme Disease.

(Image copyright Sports Illustrated)

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