Leena Gade: Photo courtesy Audi Sport

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

1 Comment

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.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

IMSA’s Bill Auberlen joins NASCAR America to discuss this weekend’s race at Lime Rock

Leave a comment

Turner Motorsport GTD driver Bill Auberlen joined NBC Sports’ Marty Snyder on NASCAR America Presents the Motorsports Hour Thursday to discuss a variety of topics, including Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship race at Lime Rock Park.

Auberlen, alongside co-driver Robby Foley, enters Lime Rock with a great amount of momentum after finishing on the GTD podium at Watkins Glen and taking the GTD class honors in the most recent IMSA race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

There’s also an extra incentive for the duo to win this weekend as well, as Auberlen is one win away from tying Scott Pruett for the most IMSA victories all-time.

Both drivers will have to be on their A-game this weekend, however, as Auberlen stated that Lime Rock is one of the tougher circuits on the IMSA calendar and compared the 1.5-mile Connecticut road course to a short track.

“It’s what we call the bullring of our season,” Auberlen said. “It is a 54-second lap and we’re going to go around it a million times before the end of the day. It’s going to be a hot one, and I think whoever survives this is going to be on the podium.”

Luckily for the GTD and GTLM teams, with no Protoype and LMP2 entries competing at Lime Rock this weekend, the worry of having to yield to entries from the faster classes is gone.

“These Protoypes are so fast now, that interacting with them, you can’t imagine,” Auberlen said. “We have radars in our car that can alert us when they are coming.

“They get on you so fast that if you’re not always looking or something is not telling you they’re coming, you could have a problem and catch into them. That’s gone. Now it’s going to be focus-forward. You’re going to be focused on everything ahead of you. You got GLTM in there at the same time, but they’re virtually the same speed as us – just a little bit faster.

“It’s going to be nice. When you stand on that podium you might be able to go for an overall victory.”

Live race coverage of IMSA’s Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCsports.com and the NBC Sports app with an encore presentation of the race airing later in the evening at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter