Audi Le Mans win a landmark for British female engineer
As Andre Lotterer crossed the finish line on Sunday to give Audi its 10th victory at Le Mans, it marked another achievement at the historic race for the team's race engineer.
Leena Gade, who is the No. 1 race engineer for the factory Audi Sport team and whose car was that driven by the winning trio, became the first female engineer to win the sportscar endurance classic.
The 35-year-old led the engineering team from the pitwall as the #2 Audi R18 TDI shouldered the hopes of the team after the accidents to Allan McNish and Mike Rockenfeller put the sister cars out.
"I still can't believe what's happened and I don't think it will sink for a few weeks," said Gade. "Our R18 started from pole, set the fastest race lap and did not have any major problems in what was only this car's second race. We had to race hard throughout the entire 24 hours. It was quite amazing."
The winning car ran faultlessly throughout its 3,000-mile journey over 355 laps, stopping only for tyres, fuel and driver changes - and it's the drivers with whom Gade had to be in constant contact.
"I'm the main contact to the driver," she said, adding: "The driver-engineer psychology has to be strong and trust plays a vital part in gaining performance. One miscalculation or decision that is waivered over can be the difference between winning or losing the race."