Leena Gade - The first lady of endurance racing
There are, today, far more women working in motor sport than in the past, but there are still few working at the highest level in engineering. An exception to this rule is Audi Sport's Leena Gade, the double Le Mans-winning race engineer for André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer.
The unassuming Briton has recently been recognised with two awards, the first being the ‘C&R Racing Woman in Technology Award’ which acknowledges successful women who excel in the technical area of motorsport. It is presented by the Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation in the USA, a foundation established by former racing driver Lyn St. James. The Audi engineer collected another prize on Saturday in Paris when presented with the FIA WEC’s ‘Man of the Year’ award…an irony lost on no one. Here’s Leena’s thoughts on this season, and the future, thanks to Audi Sport.
You won the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC as engineer with Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer. You have now received awards for this. Were you surprised?
To be perfectly honest I didn’t expect any of this whatsoever. It was a wonderful surprise and reward for a long and hard season, which we experienced together. However, the World Championship victory was a genuine team effort from every Audi Sport employee and Audi Sport Team Joest. Many thanks to them all.
You have filled another role at Audi Sport since the beginning of 2012. What has changed?
Over the last few years I was race engineer working at home in Great Britain. This year I moved over to Germany and work for Audi Sport in Ingolstadt. I’m now integrated more closely in the early development stage of new race cars. On top of my original workload, I also have a lot of organization and development work now. This is interesting, but also a challenge because the there is much more work now. I always wanted more responsibility at some point in my career. This materialized a little earlier than expected.
In 2012 you not only won the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) as engineer with your drivers, but also the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the second time. What was the biggest difference to the win in 2011?
I’ll remember the win at Le Mans in 2012 for completely different reasons than victory the year before. In 2011 I had a very good feeling throughout the course of the week leading up to the race. This year we didn’t know just how strong our new opponent Toyota would be. There was healthy competition within our team between start number ‘1’ and the car number ‘2’. I was relieved when the race was finally over. Immediately after the checkered flag fell I was glad to be completely alone of the pit wall for a few moments. For the first time my guys and I had taken victory ourselves, the year before we have received a great deal of support from the teams of the two cars that had retired.
Fiona Miller (quotes and information from Audi Sport)