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Breaking Barriers: The Inspiring Career Of Leena Gade - News

Leena Gade is a name that resonates with anyone who truly loves motorsport. As one of the most successful and celebrated race engineers in the world, she has broken barriers and made history in a male-dominated industry. In particular, Gade shook the motorsport world in 2011 when she became the first woman to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is also celebrating its 100th year anniversary this June.

As this month features both International Women in Engineering Day on June 23rd, as well as the return of Le Mans, which also features a team which has an all-female line-up, the Iron Dames, we thought it was the perfect time to dive into the history of Gade and explore how she came to be such an influential figure for other women looking to make their way in motorsport.

  • How Gade found her way into the motorsport world

Gade's passion for engineering started at a young age, with her eventually enrolling to study for a Masters of Science degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, graduating in 1988.

After completing her studies, Gade began her career at Jaguar as a vehicle refinement engineer. At the same time, Gade also picked up work for free at various motorsport teams, clocking in time with various teams on the weekend and evenings to start to truly understand the ins and outs of racing vehicles; ranging from single seaters to GT cars.

  • Career in the Racing Industry

After officially leaving Jaguar in 2003, Gade went on to meet a range of people while working at MIRA. This is when the breakthrough occurred as she ended up working at Chamberlain-Synergy in 2006.

It was while she was working with Chamberlain-Synergy that Gade got her first taste of Le Mans and witnessed Audi win for the first time with its diesel car at her first event in 2005. The following year she was invited by Howard Haynes, a race engineer for Audi in the US, to help out and that was when she finally made the jump across to Audi Sport Team.

She quickly rose through the ranks and became the first female race engineer in the history of the Audi team. In this role, Gade was responsible for the performance of the race car and its drivers, including Allan Simonsen and Tom Kristensen.

Gade's first major achievement at the helm of the wheel came in 2011 when she helped lead the Audi team to victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was the first time that a woman had ever won the iconic race, and Gade's role in the victory was instrumental.

She went on to win the race two more times, in 2012 and 2014, cementing her status as one of the most successful race engineers in the world, as well as becoming an inspiration for many other females looking to break into motorsport.

  • Challenges and Achievements

Despite her many achievements, Gade has faced her fair share of challenges as a woman in the motorsports industry. She has spoken publicly about the sexism and discrimination that she experienced throughout her career, including having her authority questioned by drivers and team members. Despite these obstacles, Gade persevered and continued to excel in her field.

In recognition of her achievements, Gade has received numerous accolades throughout her career. In 2012, she was awarded the FIA's WEC "Man of the Year" award, becoming the first woman to receive the honour. She has also been named the "Race Tech Engineer of the Year" three times and was included on the Forbes "30 Under 30" list in 2016.

  • Legacy and Impact

In addition to all her accolades, Gade has been a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion in the industry, speaking out about the need for more women and underrepresented groups to be given opportunities in racing and engineering. During an interview in 2015 she said that women need to believe in themselves saying "they can do the same job with the same tools, if not better than a man."

Today, Gade continues to work in the motorsports industry. She has served as a consultant for the FIA World Endurance Championship and currently works as a vehicle dynamics manager and race engineer at Multimatic Inc.

Visit our Racing Car Driving Experiences page today on the TrackDays website to browse and book from a wide variety of Performance Cars and Racing Cars that are as good as any Le Mans ready model at UK wide venues, available from dates on our Events Calendar or purchase of our Gift Vouchers.

Breaking Barriers: The Inspiring Career Of Leena Gade
09 June 2023

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