24H Spa, 18H: Lilou Wadoux climbs the Bronze Cup order
Brilliant stints for Lilou Wadoux - who has clocked her team's best lap time so far - resulted in the #52 AF Corse Ferrari climbing the order in the Bronze Cup; with 6 hours to go, Wadoux remains in contention for a top five in class.
What a difference a year can make: last year, the 2022 edition of the 24 Hours of Spa brought the Iron Dames project on the global stage, with a historic victory in the Gold Cup which also represented the first major sports car win for an all-female crew. In the ProAm category, Reema Juffali secured victory at her first participation. One year later, six out of the seven female drivers on the grid retired before the half-way point of the race, in a very unfortunate edition for Iron Dames, Theeba Motorsport's Reema Juffali as well as Samantha Tan, who was eyeing a strong recovery in ProAm after a start from fourth place. As the race enters its final 6 hours, though, the equally impressive Lilou Wadoux, 22, is still flying the flag of women in motorsport with a brilliant performance aboard the #52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3. Wadoux - the first ever female Ferrari GT factory driver - is contesting the FIA WEC championship, took part in her first IMSA race last week and is making her SRO debut this weekend at Spa Francorchamps. After a good qualifying in the mixed conditions, the first hours of the race were not all plain sailing for the #52 team: a few track limits penalties and an off track moment put the AF Corse entry on the wrong foot. Having dropped to P15 in the Bronze Cup, good stints by Andrea Bertolini and Lilou Wadoux were promising signs as the night approached. A brilliant double-stint for the young Frenchwoman later in the night brought the car back up to tenth in class; her third stint was yet another confirmation of her talent, as Wadoux set the team's fastest lap in 2:19.040 in the early morning hours. Her pace - combined with solid and trouble-free driving shifts from her teammates - are translating into a recovery drive which might put the #52 Ferrari back in contention for a Bronze Cup top five. Here's what happened in the last 6 hours: The night progressively made way for the light of the morning; long barrier repairs following the accident involving Charles Weerts and Neil Verhagen - which had eliminated from the race two leading BMWs - resulted in a 2 hour neutralization. With a really strong double stint, Lilou Wadoux had brought the #52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 back up into the top ten in the Bronze Cup class, before handing over to Jef Machiels during the Full Course Yellow. At the restart, Machiels managed to snatch ninth in Bronze by overtaking the #62 Team Parker Racing Porsche. Machiels would climb the order up to seventh before his pit stop with 10 hours left on the clock, when Andrea Bertolini was back in the seat. Over the course of the following hours, Bertolini settled in eighth place in Bronze; the Italian driver alternated with Louis Machiels in the early morning hours retaining eighth, in a quieter stage of the race for the team. Lilou Wadoux took over from Louis Machiels for her third driving shift of the race and immediately set the team's fastest reference. Lilou showcased once again her consistency and gained positions, running as high as fifth during the pit cycle, before slotting in sixth place in class. With six hours to go, Wadoux and her teammates remain in the hunt for a potential top five in class. The Bronze entries are led by the #91 Herberth Motorsport Porsche driven by Kay van Berlo, ahead of the #91 Sky Tempesta Racing McLaren and the #911 Pure Rxcing Porsche who had started from the overall pole position. The night has claimed several cars, including some overall contenders. The #17 Scherer Sport Audi leads the pack, followed closely by the #98 Rowe Racing BMW. A bit further down the road, the #40 Audi Sport Tresor Orange 1 precedes the #92 Manthey Porsche - which had received a penalty for causing a contact with Samantha Tan Racing's Ferrari in the opening hours - and the Rutronik Audi - all battling for the third step of the overall podium.