Leena Gade: The Motor Sport Interview

The triple Le Mans winning race engineer Leena Gade recalls how she overcame self-doubt to take charge of the Audi pitlane – and how she became comfortable as a trailblazing motor racing role model

Leena Gade portrait

Richard Davies

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Ten years ago, in 2011, Leena Gade became the first female race engineer to win the Le Mans 24 Hours when she ran an Audi R18 driven by André Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler to victory – then did it again in 2012 and for a third time with the same trio in 2014. Such success and the fact she happens to be a woman pushed her into a spotlight not usually reserved for race engineers. Gade, like the majority who have worked with her over the years, just sees herself as a motor sport professional. Gender is an irrelevance to her, although as she has come to grudgingly accept, it might not be to the young girls and women with similar ambitions who have taken inspiration from her example.

Educated in a west London all-girls’ school, Leena and her younger sister Teena have enjoyed rich, varied careers, having grown up with no discernible link to motor sport. Today, Teena is contracting for an autonomous car company having spent time at Prodrive, Skoda and in Formula 1 with Force India and AlphaTauri, while Leena heads up a UK-based vehicle dynamics centre for the Canadian Multimatic firm and continues to race engineer the team’s IMSA DPi contender in the US. Here, we focus on her Audi years and her love affair with Le Mans, the race she remains most associated with.

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