Always wanted to drive at Nurburgring, Monza or flat-out on the Autobahn? Here’s your chance

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You’ve heard of fantasy camps for typically over-the-hill athletes who get to rub shoulders with some of their heroes while also hoping to relive sports versions of what could have been when they were younger, right?

Well, even if you couldn’t hit a curve ball or your jump shot had little jump in it, there’s a heck of a fantasy camp of sorts for motorsports fans.

Whether you drive a Viper, Corvette, Porsche or maybe a high-performance Camaro or Charger – heck, you can probably drive your beater Nova or Vega as long as they can keep up – get ready to turn your ignition key.

Oh yeah, provided you have about $10,000-plus to burn.

The cost may be high, but the experience is priceless on The Autobahn Tour. Five times this year, starting in mid-May, if you can find a way to ship yourself and your car to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, you can put some serious pedal to metal.

Or as Tour promoters say, it’s “For Serious Drivers Only!”

After two days of sightseeing and getting to know your fellow tour participants, the ultimate roadtrip begins with a journey to neighboring Germany, with the destination of the infamous Nurburgring. There, you’ll spend 1 ½ days taking laps on the same track where the greatest F1 drivers have competed for decades.

After that, you spend a day getting up to and past speed on the no speed limit Autobahn.

The following day, you swap corners on the famous twisting roads up through both the Swiss and Italian Alps, then take part in a full day of driving on the famous track at Monza, where you can either drive your own car or rent (at an additional cost) a real, true race car to pilot.

While the tours in June, July, August and September will have slightly different concluding itineraries, the May tour will take you from Monza to take part in the Cannes Film Festival, followed by attending in (but not racing in) the Monaco Grand Prix.

Sure, it’s costly – and you have to pay for your own fuel and any traffic (i.e., speeding) tickets you get along the way – but imagine the memories you’ll have and the tales you can tell to all your jealous friends.

For more info on The Autobahn Tour, click here.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Schmidt Peterson hires IndyCar’s first female lead engineer, will work with Hinchcliffe

Photo courtesy Audi Sport
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Leena Gade, who helped lead Audi to three wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports as lead engineer for the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe.

“I’m really honored that I’ve got a chance to come across and work in INDYCAR,” Gade said in a team media release. “When I was a kid, I used to watch Indy car (racing), especially when Nigel Mansell first came over (in 1993), and I followed it quite a lot.

“During my sports car days, it was a little less so, until I had friends come across to the U.S. to work in it like Piers (Phillips, SPM’s general manager).

“I’m quite honored 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.”

Gade, who grew up in India and is from Great Britain, is one of the most recognized engineers in all forms of international motorsports. She becomes the first female lead engineer in Verizon IndyCar Series history.

She’s also the second female lead engineer in Indy racing history, joining Diane Holl, who served as engineer for Adrian Fernandez, Tony Kanaan (Tasman Motorsports) and Richie Hearn (Della Penna Motorsports) in CART from 1996-2000.

Gade, who holds engineering degrees from the University of Manchester in England, has engineered cars in several race series and for several manufacturers, including F1, BMW, A1 Grand Prix, GT racing, Jaguar, Audi and most recently with Bentley Motorsport.

She became the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, and followed that up with another Le Mans win in 2012, as well as being part of the World Endurance Championship drivers and manufacturers titles in the same year.

Also in 2012, she was named FIA WEC “Man of the Year” and was awarded the C&R Racing Women in Technology award from the Lyn St. James Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

Her team also won Le Mans for a third time in 2014.

“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 organization,” Piers 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 and Hinchcliffe go into the deep end that Phillips referenced when they take part in a team test Jan. 24 at Sebring International Raceway, the first time the pair will work together.