Alonso: I want to finish my career at Le Mans

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Fernando Alonso has revealed that he wants to finish his motor racing career at Le Mans once he has retired from Formula 1.

The two-time F1 world champion has raced for Ferrari since 2010, and the Italian marque has recently been linked with a return to the premier LMP1 class at the world’s most famous endurance race.

Whether Ferrari is racing in the series or not, the Spaniard explained to NBCSN’s Will Buxton today that he plans to make a move into endurance racing once his time in F1 is up, having enjoyed the honor of starting this year’s race.

“It was a good experience,” Alonso explained. “It was a lot of passion in the race, a lot of people in the paddock, 3,000 people which is quite a lot of people when you are not anaonymous.

“It’s a good experience, a good race, and obviously to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans means a lot for any driver, and hopefully I will race there.”

Alonso said with some certainty that he will race at the Circuit de la Sarthe one day, but only once his F1 career is over.

“I will, that’s 100%. I need to wait until I finish Formula 1 probably because it requires some tests, some training, some dedication.

“I’m a person that if I do something, I do 100%, I don’t do 50-50, so first I will try to do some more years in Formula 1, try to win championships, try to help Ferrari, and then one day, of course, I cannot be seated at home in the sofa, so endurance is a category that you can race when you’re a bit older with not big problems, and that will be my intention.”

Quite whether this will be with Ferrari, Alonso is unsure. However, he did confirm that talks have been held with Ferrari president, Luca di Montezemolo, about re-entering LMP1 alongside Porsche, Audi, Toyota and – as of 2015 – Nissan.

“Maybe, to be honest, with President Montezemolo, we talk about it many times about this matter because he is very enthusiastic about the Le Mans race,” Alonso said. “He enjoys a lot the win of the 458 with [Giancarlo ]Fisichella, with [Gianmaria] Bruni this year.

“I know that there is some thinking about coming back with a big car, but the same as me, it’s not in the short term, because now we need to put in place the F1 project and we need to win here.”

Many Formula 1 drivers have moved into endurance racing once their F1 careers are up. Both Fisichella and Bruni used to race in F1, but most famously, Mark Webber (a good friend of Alonso) left the sport at the end of last season to join Porsche, and has since enjoyed a new lease of life in his racing career.

For now, his focus may lie with F1, but Alonso is clearly having thoughts about life after his career with in single seaters.

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.