JWR ALUM: STAR MAZDA PRODUCES A DIFFERENT KIND OF GRADUATE – ENGINEER KATE GUNDLACH SIGNS WITH IZOD INDYCAR’S HVM RACING
John Walko Racing Alum moving up the ladder!
Official Star Mazda Press Release
Pacoima, CA / May 7, 2012 – Proving yet again that the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear is one of the most effective and prolific motorsports development programs in racing today, the series is proud to announce that yet another graduate has made the big jump… directly from Star Mazda to IndyCar.
It’s a different kind of graduate this time, however. Not a driver, but rather Star Mazda Quality Control Engineer Kate Gundlach, who will immediately join HMV Racing as the Data and Electronics Engineer (DAG) for Simona De Silvestro and the #78 Entergy Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus Dallara. This move creates a rare pairing of female driver and female engineer, both of whom achieved substantial success climbing the open-wheel ladder and are poised for success at the top level of the sport.
“I worked with HVM during the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend and was very pleased when they offered me the DAG position on Simona’s car,” says Gundlach, who moved from Vancouver B.C. to Indianapolis to take the job. “I was very impressed with Simona and the HVM team, with their level of professionalism and presentation. It’s a huge change, moving from working for a series to working for a team, but the professional – and personal – education I received while working for the Star Mazda Championship has prepared me to hit the ground running in IndyCar and be confident that I can contribute to Lotus HVM Racing’s success.”
Gundlach, during her almost three years with the Star Mazda Championship (2009 – 2012), was responsible for working with the teams and series management to produce a continuous mechanical and electronic (including data systems) upgrading of the Pro Formula Mazda race car; an evolution designed to improve safety, reliability and speed while maintaining the series’ focus on placing driver talent ahead of big budgets.
“We’re very happy for Kate, but not surprised,” says Star Mazda founder and President Gary Rodrigues. “She’s a very accomplished engineer who has done great work for our series, so it’s inevitable that she, just like the drivers who compete in our series, is moving up the ladder. Star Mazda has always been a launching pad for drivers, crewmen, engineers and even teams moving up to the next level. That’s our main mission, and it’s always a pleasure to watch our graduates succeed. She will represent us well in IndyCar.”
A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Gundlach was raised in a motorcycling family, finally transitioning to open-wheel racing via the Formula SAE program while working on her mechanical engineering degree at the University of Pittsburgh. A trip out to the Beaver Run Motorsports Complex for a race led to a meeting with principals of the Andersen/Walko Star Mazda team – and a job offer, starting immediately.
“When I started there, I worked upstairs in the loft, with a cardboard box as a desk,” she recalls. “That was one of my earliest lessons about racing at the professional level; you have to be willing to start at the very bottom and do whatever needs doing. Over the course of my time with them I learned not only about racing, but also about working with a team, working with data systems, writing contracts, doing budgets, creating sponsor proposals and a dozen other things. I was definitely thrown into the deep end, and loved every minute of it.”
Gundlach won Star Mazda’s prestigious Performance Friction ‘Crewman of the Year’ award when the Andersen/Walko team made its series debut in 2005. When the team split up, she continued working for Walko Racing (while simultaneously graduating from Pitt with a Mechanical Engineering degree) from 2006-2007 before moving to the newly-formed Goshen Racing Star Mazda team in 2008. That team only lasted one year and she was invited to join the Star Mazda Championship at its headquarters in Pacoima, CA as series Engineer, a position that also included project management and trackside support.
“Timing is everything,” says Lotus HVM Technical Director Tom Brown. “We had an opening available in our Engineering department and Kate came highly recommended. We had a chance to meet at Long Beach and everything clicked. Having her on board will clearly strengthen our group.”
About Lotus HVM Racing
HVM Racing was founded by Keith Wiggins and is based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The 2012 season marks its eleventh year of competition since forming in 2001. Since its inception, HVM Racing has earned six victories, two pole positions, 22 podiums, 40 top-five finishes and 97 top-tens. The team also earned “Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year” honors with current driver Simona De Silvestro in 2010. HVM finished fourth and third, respectively, in the Champ Car World Series in 2006 and 2007, and earned drivers Mario Dominguez and Robert Doornbos Rookie of the Year honors in 2002 and 2007, respectively. Lotus HVM Racing can be found online at www.hvmracing.com. Follow the team on twitter at www.twitter.com/HVMRacing and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HVMRacing.
About Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear
For 2012, the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear will be again be a major part of the Mazda Road to Indy. The 2012 schedule currently includes 17 races on 10 weekends, most with IndyCar. Rising stars from around the world will compete on road courses, street circuits and ovals in front of more than a million fans as they compete for prizes valued at $1.5 million, including a scholarship to move up and race in the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights series. Drivers 16 and older are welcome to compete and the Star Mazda Championship also features the Expert Series for drivers 30 and older. The Star Mazda Championship features standing starts, wheel-to-wheel racing at 160 mph and budgets a fraction of other top open-wheel ladder series. For more information on the Star Mazda Championship please visit www.starmazda.com.
By Shelli Messer, Pitt News
July 6, 2005
NORTH VERSAILLES, Pa. – Starting out in a sport — or a career — is usually difficult, but for Kate Gundlach, all it took was dialing one phone number.
Actually, it was a little harder than that for the 21-year-old Allison Park, Pa.-native, but not that much. Motorsports have always been in Gundlach’s blood. Both of her parents’ families love motorcycles.
“I’ve grown up with racing,” Gundlach said. “I have been around it longer than I can remember. It’s been accepted into the family. I fell in love with it, though, when I joined the University of Pittsburgh’s Formula [Society of Automotive Engineers] team.”
That love for racing sparked her to pursue a future in the sport.
“I wanted to get into auto racing, but I didn’t know where to start,” she said. “I was handed John Walko’s card at a Formula SAE event, and I took it straight back to my dorm room. I checked out his Web site and gave him a call.”
Walko is co-owner of a formula car racing team that competes in several series, including fielding four cars in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear for drivers Graham Rahal, Robbie Pecorari, Jonathan Klein and Pablo Donoso.
“I thought to myself, ‘That’s what I want. I have to be in this,'” Gundlach said. “All it took was a phone call. I had my interview, and [Walko] told me that I’d start the next day. I was so excited.”
As part of a co-op program with Pitt, Gundlach, now a senior mechanical engineering student, is in her second year as an intern for Andersen Walko Racing based in North Versailles, Pa., and Fairfield, N.J. She holds the title of data acquisition specialist and works with the Pi Research system.
A data acquisition specialist downloads computer-generated information regarding the car itself, such as steering, speed, throttling, ground speed, engine diagnostics, and where and when the driver is shifting gears. Gundlach then either looks for what problems the car is having or comments on what could be improved.
For Walko, hiring Gundlach was an easy decision. He believes she’ll leave with the experience needed to take her career to the next step.
“Racing looks different from the outside,” Walko said. “I want her to take with her the knowledge of how a race team works. She will go knowing what the real thing is.”
Two years after being hired, Gundlach has already had the opportunity to work for a professional racecar team, a privilege most mechanical engineering students will never experience. She also has been given the chance to work with Rossella Manfrinato, one of the most accomplished female racing engineers AWR hired this spring.
“Oh my word, it’s amazing,” Gundlach said in response to working with Manfrinato. “She has so much experience and knowledge. I have learned so much from her, and I’m so lucky to be working with her.
“She has such an in-depth knowledge of every element of the car,” Gundlach continued. “She’s always thinking of the next step. She’s such an all-around awesome person.”
Gundlach loves the people who surround her at AWR. Even as a woman, she feels she and Manfrinato are treated with the utmost respect.
“It’s easy to forget that I am a woman with this team,” Gundlach said. “It’s easier having Rossella around. She has so many credentials that everyone knows and respects her. As for the team, they are wonderful. I treat each of them like a crew member, and they treat me like a crew member. They are so easygoing that it makes them easy to get along with.”
As if balancing school and a full-time job isn’t hard enough, Gundlach has also been a member of Pitt’s Formula SAE team for the last three years. She is the leader of the group responsible for the drivetrain in the team’s car.
“SAE is an organization that includes around 150 teams worldwide,” Gundlach explained. “The Formula SAE events allow college students to engineer, design and drive small, formula 500-size cars. It is a one-race event, but the car must finish other competitions such as endurance, autocross, accelerations, etc.
“I really don’t know how I balance it all,” Gundlach said. “I tend to think I handle it well. I can’t focus on things too long, so having lots to do makes it easier to go back and forth. I love what I do. I try to be as involved as possible while keeping up with school. It motivates me when I know that I can learn more. Plus, caffeine helps a lot.”
Gundlach, who has one more year of engineering studies, isn’t sure where she will end up next.” No matter what direction she decides to make, she knows racing will be involved.
“I would like to get my master’s degree, but I have to find the money and the time,” she said. “I want to be a racecar engineer and work my way up the ladder.”
Of course, Andersen Walko Racing would love to see Gundlach stick around once she graduates.
“She has what it takes to work on a race team,” Walko said.
“I have more confidence from working here [AWR],” she said. “You learn more about yourself with racing. What can I say? Racing is my life.”
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