Three-time Le Mans 24 hour winner race engineer Leena Gade has been named James Hinchcliffe’s team chief at Schmidt Peterson Motorsport, becoming Indycar’s first female lead race engineer.

Gade, who also acts as the FIA Commission’s Women in Motorsport ambassador, has a wealth of sportscar endurance racing experience having previously worked for Jaguar, Audi and Bentley. Gade is the only female race engineer to win the Le Mans 24 Hours which she achieved three times during Audi’s dominant era in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Gade will lead Hinchcliffe’s #5 Arrow Endurance Honda squad and is relishing the opportunity to move to IndyCar.

“I’m really honoured that I’ve got a chance to come across and work in IndyCar,” Gade said. “When I was a kid, I used to watch IndyCar, especially when Nigel Mansell first came over, and I followed it quite a lot.

“During my sportscar days, it was a little less so, until I had friends come across to the US to work in it like Piers [Phillips, General Manager of SPM]. I’m quite honoured to be given the chance. It is going to be something completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, so it’s a big learning curve, but it’s a challenge that I’m really relishing, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Phillips is thrilled to secure a high profile name like Gade and is confident she’ll flourish being thrown “into the deep end” in her maiden IndyCar campaign.

“There was significant interest in Leena amongst the international motorsports community, so we’re really excited that she sees where we’re taking SPM, believes in what we’re doing and that she is now a part of our organisation,” Phillips said.

“I’ve known Leena for quite some time now, and I’ve worked alongside her, so I knew the credit she’s been given is well deserved. We’re very much looking forward to throwing her into the deep end and seeing her add to the team’s success.”

Gade will begin preparations for the 2018 IndyCar season later this month with an opening test at Sebring International Raceway on the 24th January before the campaign begins at St Petersburg on the 11th March.