Leena Gade: Photo courtesy Audi Sport

James Hinchcliffe’s lead engineer, Leena Gade, has left team after just five races

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As Schmidt Peterson Motorsports contemplates where it goes from here now that James Hinchcliffe will miss Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, it will go forward without race engineer Leena Gade, hired just five months ago.

According to a team statement, Gade and SPM have parted ways after just five Verizon IndyCar Series races. It was Gade’s first foray into the world of IndyCar and oval track racing.

“After many ongoing conversations and the decision that the relationship was not conducive for either party, the agreement was made to part ways with one of our lead race engineers, Leena Gade. Everyone at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports wishes nothing but the absolute best for Leena.”

The team said it will have no further comment.

Gade came to SPM with a very successful racing resume, which included three wins in the Le Mans 24 Hour race. Bringing her onboard gave the Hinchcliffe team an air of excitement when it was first announced in January. She was the first female race engineer in IndyCar history.

But after Hinchcliffe – who sat on the pole for last year’s Indy 500 – failed to qualify this past weekend for Sunday’s race, a change in direction apparently was deemed necessary.

Both sides decided Wednesday to go separate ways just days before the same Indy 500 Hinchcliffe will not participate in.

A search for a new race engineer to replace Gade at SPM is reportedly already underway.

But SPM will likely find it hard to attract someone of high caliber and experience at this point in the season given that the Indy 500 is only the sixth event on the 17-race IndyCar schedule, and most current engineers are locked into contracts with their teams through at least the rest of the current season, if not longer.

According to one media report, the team has named technical director Todd Malloy to temporarily take over Gade’s role until a permanent replacement can be found.

Hinchcliffe tweeted Wednesday that he and SPM had given up on trying to make the race, after it was apparent none of the drivers already qualified would give up their seat, or that the price tag to buy a seat in a qualified car was potentially too steep.

Hinchcliffe, whose best finish thus far this season was third at Alabama, is currently fifth in the Verizon IndyCar Series point standings. With the Indy 500 offering double the normal amount of points than a regular in-season race, it’s likely Hinchcliffe will take a major points hit and drop in the rankings by virtue of not being in Sunday’s race.

Leaving SPM isn’t the only departure Gade has made. It appears she has also deleted her Twitter account.

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Dan Ticktum wins crash-marred FIA F3 World Cup in Macau

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Overshadowed by a horrific crash involving Sophia Floersch was the fact that 19-year-old Dan Ticktum dominated and won the Macau Grand Prix – a victory that puts him closer to earning the superlicence required to allow him to race with Formula 1, according to Yahoo! Sports.

Ticktum won Macau’s qualification race as well as the Grand Prix, starting first in both events. For his victories, he earned 10 points, which combined with 25 for his runner-up finish in the European F3 Championship leaves him just five below the 40 needed for the license.

This was Ticktum’s second Macau Grand Prix victory.

“It was a dominant performance that I was preparing for,” Ticktum said on his web site. “I don’t think I’ve ever prepared as hard as I did for this race and it all worked out. In the final race a lot of variables were thrown at me but I handled them.”

On his way to victory lane, Ticktum had to survive several restarts including the lengthy red flag period following Floersch’s accident to repair the barrier.

“I can’t count how many safety car restarts we had to do,” Ticktum said. “It puts a lot of pressure on a driver here with such a long run down to the first corner. I can’t remember a weekend when I’ve put it all together so well.

“The car was absolutely perfect all weekend, it was so good and I can’t thank Motopark enough for that. I’ve never been so involved in the set-up, felt so at one with the car as I did this weekend.”