Le Mans-winning race engineer Leena Gade is no longer part of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports IndyCar team.
The Briton, who joined the Indianapolis-based outfit during the offseason, left the team on Wednesday morning.
Her exit comes after five events as James Hinchcliffe’s engineer on the No. 5 Honda. Gade’s experience, forged primarily in sports car racing where she scored multiple victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Audi LMP1 team, was put to the test in the unique multi-discipline environment found in IndyCar.
With its diverse challenges spread across road courses, street courses, short ovals, and superspeedways, IndyCar has been a steep challenge for new engineers to achieve rapid success. Gade’s former Audi Sport race engineering colleague Justin Taylor, who joined Ed Carpenter Racing as JR Hildebrand’s engineer in 2017, faced similar hurdles as a first-time IndyCar engineer. He returned to sports car racing at the end of the season.
While some could link Gade’s departure to Hinchcliffe’s failure to qualify for Sunday’s Indy 500, signs of hardships were visible on pit lane during the recent April 30 Open Test and continued as practice got under way last week. The culmination of those struggles pointed to a natural winding down of the relationship after Hinchcliffe’s car lacked the speed to remain in the field of 33 on Bump Day. Although the team made subsequent errors that kept the Canadian from making a final run to try and bump his way back in, the underlying issue that placed the team in the situation drew back to insufficient pace.
Considering her past achievements, Gade’s services as a race engineer – especially with the 24 Hours of Le Mans just weeks away – will likely be in high demand.
It’s unclear whether Todd Malloy, SPM’s technical director, will step in to engineer Hinchcliffe’s car starting at Detroit, or if Will Anderson, who has been farmed out to engineer the SPM-affiliated Meyer Shank Racing entry for Jack Harvey, will be promoted to the No. 5 car.