Motorsports A-Z: Laura Wontrop Klauser, 'M' is for manager.

cadillac wasn't going to sit around waiting for evs to race le mans
Illustration by Helen Green

As head of sports-car racing at GM, Laura Wontrop Klauser is busy. Her job includes sustaining the current race programs while leading development on the Cadillac LMDh and the Corvette Z06 GT3.R.

This story originally appeared in Volume 13 of Road & Track.

Road & Track: How did you get into racing?

Laura Wontrop Klauser: I’ve been working full-time for GM since 2008 and spent eight years at the company before moving into motorsports. When the position for the program manager of the Cadillac ATS-V.R program opened, the Formula SAE experience I had in college and as a volunteer was probably a critical component as to why they chose me to move into motorsports, because otherwise, I had no background.

R&T: What did you learn from Formula SAE?

LWK: How to get very different groups of people to work together when, on the surface, that’s not what they want to do. And a lot of racing is that. It’s trying to get all of these different types of people in a high-passion environment to work together, because everyone has the same goal. We just all have very different ideas about how to get there.

R&T: So building a team is the challenge?

LWK: The job at GM is an engineering position, and I think that’s super important, because there are a lot of technical decisions that get made, and you need to be able to speak the language. You also have to have a lot of softer skills and be able to work with people. I try to keep things as technical and black-and-white as possible, because that pulls emotion out of it. But it’s very important to understand that emotion is a critical component, and if you try to ignore that, you’re only going to frustrate people even more when they’re upset.

R&T: Why is Cadillac racing in the hybrid LMDh proto­type class?

LWK: I think it’s been very clear that GM is going to an all-electric future. That is our plan and where we’re headed, so there was a lot of discussion around electric racing. What do we want to do there? Ultimately, while on the production side, we’re ready to go full steam ahead, and we’re putting out some great electric product, some of the things we really, truly love about racing are not achievable with the electric platform yet. Like 24-hour endurance races, the technology just isn’t there. So we’re excited to hopefully see the technology get there, but at the moment, we’re not going to sit around and race nothing as we’re waiting.

R&T: And what about Corvette going to GT3 now that the GTE class has been discontinued?

LWK: There was never a “We won’t race Corvette” discussion. It was: “Okay. We’re racing Corvette. Where? How?” If you think about it, we were doing more or less the same thing for 20 years with Corvette Racing in the pro GT classes, and as we shift now into GT3 in this customer world, it’s different. And there’s a lot of just getting people comfortable with change and all the stuff that’s going to come with it.

R&T: It seems like you have a full slate.

LWK: I like being busy. If I wasn’t as hard-core into the racing as I am with this job, I probably would be back to volunteering in five different organizations and all the other stuff I was doing before I got into racing and still dabble in. I definitely don’t have as much time as I used to.

Chris Perkins Senior Editor Chris Perkins is the Web Editor for Road & Track magazine.

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