The Race Engineer

The role of an engineer in motorsports is to oversee the development of the car components prior to the race, and to solve problems that occur at the track during the race.
 

A race engineer is the person the driver relies upon to setup the car and guide him through the race. Motorsport engineers work in design, testing, and production of the car.  The responsibilities of these engineers include:
 

  • generating and testing of new vehicle ideas 

  • testing performance, strength, costs, and safety of the vehicle

  • designing prototypes with computer-aided design (CAD) software

  • testing components and bodywork 

  • testing working models on the track 

  • building production models and carrying out quality control checks

  • 'finishing' vehicles with the team's colors and sponsorship logos
     

Motorsport engineers work at the track and in the pit.  The responsibilities of these engineers include:

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  • setting up the car to perform well given the track and weather conditions

  • monitoring speed and data during races

  • providing technical advice to the driver 

  • conducting ‘after-tests’ on the car post-race 

What Does It Take?

The attributes of successful Engineers:
 

  • All Engineers, both automotive and motorsports, need to have an engineering degree (mechanical or electrical)

  • Engineering requires a strong foundation in science, math, and physics

  • Beyond education – teams are looking for someone mechanically inclined with a passion for racing and cars

  • Hobbies also play a part – teams and employers like to see someone who is hands on and who demonstrates a genuine interest and passion for racing, often serving as a volunteer in racing or at the track

  • Engineers also must have strong interpersonal skills – just as they are reading a sensor or data point, they also need to be able to communicate with and understand the driver, who is a key ingredient to car performance

Case Study

Leena Gade

Leena Gade, an engineer and daughter of Indian immigrant parents, became the first female race engineer to ever win the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France in 2011.
 

Gade grew up in England with her 2 sisters in a working class family. She became interested in engineering at a young age, along with her sister, Teena. In their spare time, they would take household items, take them apart, and put them back together again – just to understand how they worked and functioned. Both sisters became enthralled with the wonders of Formula One racing, not as much with the sport itself, but amazed at what the cars themselves were capable of, which are technological marvels. Her interest in watching Formula One racing, as well as her natural curiosity into figuring out “how things work” led her to a education and career path in engineering.

 

Gade graduated from the University of Manchester in England with a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering, then became an engineer for Jaguar Cars in England. She then began working part-time for various race teams as an engineer, which has been a heavily male-dominated occupation in motorsports.

 

In 2007, Gade was hired by Audi’s racing team as an assistant, where she worked her way up to a full-time position as a race engineer, leading her team to 24 Hours of Le Mans race wins in 2011, 2012 and 2014. Gade became the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and won several other accolades for her accomplishments as an engineer, including

Leena Gade

Review

So why was Leena Gade so successful? What attributes made her a great engineer and successful in life?
 

  • Dedication & passion – she worked her way up from an assistant to managing the race team for her car

  • Beyond her education and knowledge, she had a strong passion for motorsports.

  • She looked beyond the role being male dominated, and paved her own path to the top as one of the most well-known race engineers in the world.

Career Path & Opportunities

In The Automotive Industry

4 YEAR BACHELOR'S

+ MASTERS DEGREE OR HIGHER

BA, MECHANICAL ENGINEERING

BA, AEROSPACE ENGINEERING

BA, ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING

ENDLESS CAREER
OPPORTUNITIES

CAREER IN FORMULA 1 (F1)

THESE ARE IN-DEMAND SKILLS THAT PAY GREAT INCOMES

Career Opportunity Highlight

BMW North America Co-Op (Spartanburg, SC)

BMW North America

Spartanburg, South Carolina

  • Eligible to students who are full time in a 4 year degree program with a 3.0 GPA or higher, pursing a Bachelor’s of Science or Graduate degree, and have completed 3 semesters in that program

  • 3 semester rotation between full-time work and study, with responsibilities at BMW growing as the program continues, and the opportunity to travel and work at BMW’s facilities in Germany.

  • Co-ops available for many different roles:

    • Engineering, Manufacturing Support, Quality Management, Logistics, Procurement, Information Technology, Human Resources, Communications, and Finance and Controlling. 

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