Engineering a Win – Leena Gade

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If Race Engineer Leena Gade knows anything, it’s the power of persistence. Early in her career she tried request after request to gain work experience with various Formula One teams. And today that persistence has paid off.

In 2011 she became the first female race engineer to win the Le Mans 24 hours, the pinnacle of endurance motor sport racing. She is one of the most senior females in motor sports. And as a race engineer, she controls the strategy for her cars during the race and monitors all of the telemetry coming from the car for races that last from between 6 and 24 hours.

As a teen, Gade was enthralled by the sport and was in awe of the power and complexity of the cars. This and a habit of learning how things work by taking them apart led her to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering. As females in engineering experience, it is a male-dominated field and she learned early that “…to be one of the boys, I had to have the same level of banter, of crudeness, you had to mess around like they did purely to break down the barrier of them seeing you as a girl.”

She began learning hands-on, often unpaid at races, gaining experience with Formula BMW, A1GP, GT racing and Le Mans She was finally offered the chance to join Audi in 2007, and they went on to win. “The next thing that went through my head was: ‘I hope I’m not a one-hit wonder,'” she admits. “I’ve got to go back and have another two or three wins and add a world championship title to our crew’s name.”

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