Verizon IndyCar Series team Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have announced today that they have hired Leena Gade as the lead race engineer for their #5 car. Gade will be James Hinchcliffe‘s engineer for the 2018 season. The appointment will make her the first female lead engineer in Verizon IndyCar Series history.
Gade, who made her name as Audi Sport‘s engineer during three of their 24 Hours of Le Mans victories, will join SPM ahead of what could be an excellent year for the squad. During the off-season, the team made a number of organisational changes whilst also hiring numerous new staff members. The team will be hoping that their new additions, including Gade and new second driver Robert Wickens, will lead them to a revitalized run of form; having failed to make the top ten in the championship with either of their drivers since 2014.
“I’m really honoured that I’ve got a chance to come across and work in IndyCar,” said Gade in Schmidt Peterson Motorsport’s statement regarding her signing this morning, “When I was a kid, I used to watch IndyCar, especially when Nigel Mansell first came over, and I followed it quite a lot. During my sports car days, it was a little less so, until I had friends come across to the US to work in it like Piers [Phillips]. I’m quite honoured to be given the chance. It is going to be something completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, so it’s a big learning curve, but it’s a challenge that I’m really relishing, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Gade’s career as a race engineer has been stellar. Having worked her way up from engineering in Formula BMW, A1GP and GT Racing, Leena joined Audi Sport Team Joest for 2007. In 2011, she became the first female race engineer to be part of the winning team in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. She would go on to help Audi to two more race wins in the historic race during her and Audi’s tenure in the World Endurance Championship; a series that Audi had clinched the overall title in on two occasions. Additionally, Gade was also named as an FIA Commision for Women in Motorsport ambassador in 2013.
“There was significant interest in Leena amongst the international motorsports community, so we’re really excited that she sees where we’re taking SPM, believes in what we’re doing and that she is now a part of our organization,”said SPM’s General Manager, Piers Phillips, “I’ve known Leena for quite some time now, and I’ve worked alongside her, so I knew the credit she’s been given is well deserved. We’re very much looking forward to throwing her into the deep end and seeing her add to the team’s success.”
Gade’s first experience of being James Hinchcliffe’s engineer will come at Sebring International Raceway during Schmidt Peterson’s pre-season testing on January 24. From there, further testing will take place at the ISM Speedway and possibly Sonoma Raceway in February, before the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series gets under-way on March 11 with the Grand Prix of St Petersburg.