Leena Gade is the No. 1 engineer responsible for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hour race-winning Audi R18 TDI; while her younger sister, Teena, is in an identical role, engineering Kris Meeke’s MINI John Cooper Works WRC in the World Rally Championship.
As the cars would never meet on the race track or rally stage, the sisters brought their two very different cars together at the Goodwood Festival of Speed to compare notes and highlight their respective roles as part of National Motorsport Week’s ambitions to inspire the next generation of world class engineers, both male and female.
Leena Gade, 35, made history this year when she became the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which gave Audi its 10th victory at the classic endurance race. Teena, 31, is now looking to emulate her sister’s achievement by helping Kris Meeke and MINI to win their first ever event in the World Rally Championship.
“It was an amazing achievement for Leena. Le Mans is probably the toughest motor race in the world,” said Teena. “She had to remain totally focussed for the whole 24 hours, monitoring every aspect of the car and ensuring her race strategy was faultless. In the end, after a whole day of intense racing, she won by just 13 seconds. I have the upmost respect for what she did and am amazed she has any finger nails left.”
While both sisters perform the same role, acting as the interface with the driver and interpreting what they want out of their cars, the MINI WRC is a very different animal to the Audi R18 TDI.
“I am lucky that my races are always over in 24 hours, and sometimes as little as 6 hours; for Teena her rallies often start on a Thursday evening and finish three days later,” said Leena. “She also has to engineer a car that can run over almost any surface from smooth tarmac roads to rough mountain tracks at speeds of up to 130 mph.”
The sisters grew up in Wembley, West London. Their interest in engineering led Leena to study aerospace engineering at Manchester University, while Teena chose to study mechanical engineering at UCL, before going on to complete a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering at Imperial College.
Teena has worked for Prodrive, which runs the MINI WRC Team, for three years, while Leena joined Audi Sport Team Joest in 2006. However, their cars the Audi R18 TDI and MINI John Cooper Works WRC made their competitive debuts on the same weekend in May this year.