The 38-year-old no longer hankers for Formula One as she prepares for the fourth round at the Circuit of the Americas
I especially want to highlight this last section:
Gade has also become important in another sense in this almost completely male-dominated sport, proving that role models really do make a difference. “I’ve noticed how much cooler engineering has become because of a girl doing it and one who is passionate about it, that’s what I am impressed by. It sounds really cheesy but it feels like I am putting something back,” she says. “I have had more women contact me through Formula Student, meeting teams who have female engineers. What has been interesting is how many younger kids, male and female, who have got in touch, and ones that suddenly put you on a pedestal as being a hero – which I don’t understand because I just do a job and everybody around me does the same thing. But crucially these kids who are asking questions are interested in engineering. You’re promoting what used to be not very cool. When I was at school if you liked science you were a bit of a weirdo.”
She is a anything but. It is no surprise that Gade, charming, talkative and engaging, should play down her own achievements and instead reveal how much pleasure she still takes from her chosen field. “Earlier this year I was a judge of the national school science and engineering competition,” she recalls. “I was sat alongside the first British female astronaut. It was incredible. I said: ‘Wow, you are so super cool’ and she said, ‘No, no, you are’. ‘But you get to go to space,’ I told her, and she said, ‘But you won Le Mans’. And I said, ‘But you got to go to space.’”
One wonders where Gade might go next. But while admiration for space travel is all well and good, her feet remain resolutely on the ground and the focus that has made her a pre-eminent race engineer suggests further wins are doubtless in store. “The way the technology is advancing at such a fast rate there is a lot more to do in endurance racing.” She is, understandably, “very happy where I am”.
Leena Gade is a true role model to women of colour in my opinion - she’s served as head engineer for the Audi Sport Team Joest squad that has dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans - specifically, the driver trio of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer, and Marcel Fassler who have won it in three of the last four years.
Her ascenscion to a leading role in the team is chronicled in the documentary Truth in 24 II which also chronicles her squad’s first victory back in 2011.
I can’t express enough how much I admire Leena Gade and her contributions to motorsport and engineering, and hope for much more success for her in the years ahead.