When the Verizon IndyCar Series opener will be held in St. Petersburg, Florida on 11 March, a whole new chapter in the IndyCar history will start.
Not only will all the teams run the brand new aero-kit on the cars, but there will be something brand new on the pitlane too.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has announced today that James Hinchcliffe will have a new lead engineer for the upcoming season.
This is not just any random engineer but a quadruple Le Mans winner, Leena Gade. Leena has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans a total of 4 times – first time in 2008 as data engineer at Audi Sport Team Joest with Allan McNish, Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen. Two years later she became a lead engineer on her own car, where she helped Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoit Treluyer win three Le Mans victories, one World Championship and 10 race wins in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Her last race with Audi was in 2016, before she went on to a leading role at Bentley Motorsport, where she wasn’t directly in contact with the drivers over a headset.
After one and a half years in that function, she feels the needs to be in control of one car again, and has therefore chosen to join the SPM team in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
The team already has another person in the with Le Mans knowledge, the managing director, Piers Phillips. Phillips worked at Strakka Racing when they can at Le Mans and the FIA WEC. Phillips started in his position at SPM in 2016 and has since then had 7 podiums including 1 win.
The 2018 season will be with James Hinchcliffe in car #5 while Robert Wickens will have car #7. The team already got nicknamed Team Canada with the two Canadian drivers, but perhaps Team GB would be a more fitting name with two Brits in two important positions.
Leena Gade will be the first lead engineer in IndyCar, and therefore makes history. There has been numerous female drivers and mechanics through the years, but she will be the first female to have such a position.
On top of her SPM team work, she will continue in the FIA Women In Motorsport, where she is trying to get more females involved in motorsport, both on the driving and engineering site of the sport.
The first time for Leena Gade to wear her new headset will be on 24 January, when Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will to go Sebring for the first test ahead of the season. We wonder how long it will last before Hinchcliffe will hear the famous words “Push without risk” over the radio, as has become the trademark from Leena, when she communicated with the Audi drivers.