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AUTO RACING PACKAGE: Woman Engineer’s Victory Is First for IndyCar Series

July 24, 1996

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ The first woman to be chief engineer of a race winner in modern Indy-car history finds it hard to acknowledge the significance of her achievement.

``I may be a pioneer, but I don’t think of myself in that way,″ said Diane Holl of Tasman Motorsports.

Tasman’s driver, Adrian Fernandez, won the Toronto Molson Indy on July 14.

``I’ve always been female and I’ve always been an engineer, so it’s just a case of getting on with the job,″ she said.

The death of driver Jeff Krosnoff in an accident that ended the race three laps before its scheduled finish muted the celebration for Fernandez and Holl.

``It was a tragic win, but we can do nothing about that,″ she said. ``There’s sadness about what happened, but once you get away from the situation you begin to realize what a remarkable thing you’ve done.

``At the beginning of the year, someone asked me my goal and I said it was to win one race. Whether we would have achieved it is something else, but I felt we had the potential to do it, especially after Andre (Ribeiro, Tasman’s other driver) won earlier in the year at Rio.″

Holl said winning the race showed that she and Fernandez have a similar understanding of his car’s needs.

``Communication between us started out good and has kept improving,″ she said. ``I’ve got a pretty good understanding now of what he needs to make the car go quicker and, more importantly, he can make me understand the level of a particular problem _ whether a big step or a small step is what’s needed.″

But Fernandez admits he was a little skeptical of Holl at first.

``Finding out Diane was going to be my engineer was a little unexpected, but once I was introduced to her, I knew she was capable of doing the job,″ he said from his home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. ``I knew that if Steve (Tasman owner Steve Horne) hired her, she must be good, so I went along with his judgment.

``We’ve become more confident all year in explaining things to each other, and I think winning showed how far we’ve come. Now we’ve just got to get more consistent.″

Holl is the only woman to be chief engineer of a winning car since Championship Auto Racing Teams began sanctioning races in 1979, CART spokesman Mike Zizzo said. He said her achievement probably was a first in the history of Indy-car racing, which goes back to the early 1900s.

``We don’t have the full records of other sanctioning organizations, so I can’t say absolutely that she’s the first woman engineer to win a race,″ he said. ``But women didn’t start getting involved with the technical side of this type of racing until the early 1970s, so it’s unlikely that another woman did it.″

Horne hired Holl last October because of what she had done previously in racing, stressing that gender was not an issue in the decision.

``It was a unique thing to hire a woman, but what impressed me about Diane was her experience,″ he said. ``Her credentials were very good. She had spent 10 years in Formula One with the Ferrari, Reynard and Benetton teams, mostly as a designer, so she had the background needed for the job.

``All she needed was some seat-of-the-pants trackside experience and she’s getting that now. In fact, she’s performing at a level beyond her experience.″

Holl, 32, the daughter and sister of engineers, said she spent much of her youth attending air shows and auto races in her native England.

``I used to go to events like the British Grand Prix in the 1970s, which was an exciting time for British racing,″ she said. ``It caught my imagination and gave me the idea that you can win something by being very bright, and this became what I wanted to do.″

End advance for Thursday, July 25, and thereafter

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