18th Dec 2012 by Admin
As Audi’s chief race engineer and the first woman race engineer to win the famed Le Mans 24 Hours, Leena Gade has packed a lot into 36 years.
The British-born, Indian-raised champion faced several knockbacks in her rise to the top of the male-dominated industry. She was one of only five women in her aerospace engineering course at university and recalls an F3 team manager telling her that as a ‘girl’, she’d never make it.
Desperate to get a foot in the door, Gade sent out numerous requests for work experience with Formula One teams. Recently, she told a news reporter that she has a folder filled with rejection replies.
With steely determination, Gade eventually landed a job with Jaguar and unpaid, hands-on training with Formula BMW, GT racing, A1GP and Le Mans with the Chamberlain Synergy team.
Audi soon recognised Gade’s talents and offered her a position at the company in 2007, working with technical director Howden Haynes.
Then came the pinnacle of Gade’s career: being promoted to race engineer and helping the Audi Sport Factory team win the Le Mans. The fierce endurance race was a test of Gade’s doggedness, as two of Audi’s turbo diesel-engine R18 TDI sports cars had already crashed out. In charge of the final car, it was up to Gade to “keep it together for the driver” and bring home the win.
“[What] went through my head was: ‘I hope I’m not a one-hit wonder. I’ve got to go back and have another two or three wins and add a world championship title to our crew’s name,” Gade told a UK newspaper.
As race engineer, Gade plays a crucial role in running the entire team. She oversees the car’s construction, manages the driver, checks the engine function, assesses the fuel, tyres and coordinates the mechanics during the race. Gade also collects digital information from the car and uses it to guide the driver through the course. It’s no wonder Audi praised Gade for having “masterminded” the car manufacturer’s 10th victory in the Le Mans.
Between races, Gade is constantly testing technology to prepare her team for upcoming prototype series.
Gade lives life in the fast lane and intends on keeping it that way. The dynamic engineer says she’s determined to “keep doing more and keep winning races”. No doubt that she will.
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