Ashley Freiberg returns to racing with Lamborghini ST class podium
Her last race in Lamborghini Super Trofeo dated back to 2017 - when she became the first woman to stand on the podium in the series globally. A driver that has shown huge potential through the years, with appearances in races like the 12H of Sebring and the 24H of Daytona, Ashley Freiberg was finally back behind the wheel last weekend - and she delivered once again.
One of the biggest stories from the past weekend at Road America was the return of Ashley Freiberg to motor racing. The 30-year-old lady, originally from Illinois, returned in fact behind the wheel after a few appearances in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge in 2020 and 2018, but had not contested a more extensive campaign since 2017, when she raced in Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America - and became the first ever woman to stand on the podium in the Lamborghini one make series globally. Freiberg returned to Super Trofeo for the fourth round of the 2022 season at the iconic Road America circuit, joining NTE Sport in a very promising line-up: she shared the #42 Lamborghini Huracan ST Evo2 with Lucas Petersson - also making his return to the sport after a pandemic-imposed hiatus. "I am extremely excited to be back behind the wheel with the NTE Sport crew" - commented Freiberg before the race meeting. "The Lamborghini Super Trofeo was one of the most fun and challenging cars I’ve driven, and I’m so grateful to have another opportunity to race one again", she continued. "Road America is a great track for these cars, I’m looking forward to experiencing the Evo 2 there!" And Freiberg surely impressed: having qualified in fifth place in ProAm class for Saturday's race, Ashley had a strong start but, as she tried to avoid contact with an opponent, she had a spin and had to rebuild her race from the back of the pack. The first race was disrupted by a lengthy Full Course Yellow for the #13 Huracan of Ofir Levy (O'Gara Motorsport / Change Racing), who came to a halt after scattering oil around the track. As marshals worked on the course, the race could go back to green with 20 minutes to go, with the pit window approaching. At the mandatory pit stop, Ashley Freiberg handed over to Petersson from fifth place in ProAm. With a solid second stint, he would be able to gain a few positions in the overall classification, moving up to P16 overall in a 36 car field. A second caution with seven minutes left on the clock resulted in the race ending under yellow and Freiberg/Petersson completed their return to racing with a fifth place in class.
But it would be the equally challenging second race on Sunday to show their potential. Heavy rain welcomed the drivers on Sunday morning, as the IMSA race saw frequent rain showers. At the start of the final Lamborghini ST contest of the weekend, though, the track was mostly dry - albeit tricky. Lucas Petersson started the first stint from P4 in ProAm, just outside the overall top-ten. With a good start, Petersson was able to gain a few places overall but retained fourth in class, when, just like in race 1, the first Full Course Yellow was deployed in the early stages when Jake Walker went off in the gravel. Just after the restart, a sudden rain shower caused several drivers to slide off the track and into the barriers. Petersson pitted under yellow and handed over to Ashley Freiberg for the second stint from P5 in ProAm. The caution became a red flag, as the rain eased and the track was cleared. All cars were back out on wet weather tires for the final 17 minutes - and it was Freiberg's time to shine. Conditions were still incredibly tricky and, having inherited the #42 car from 14th place overall, Freiberg charged through the field with impressive pace. She overtook Liddy for fourth in class and hunted down Carazo, just a few seconds up the road. Having also passed a handful of cars from other classes, Ashley Freiberg grabbed third on the penultimate lap - and continued her great run by climbing to eighth overall on the final lap. "I am so in love with this car and I'm super grateful for NTE Sport" - she commented after the race. "We really deserve to be on the podium after the weekend we had", she continued. "We had a lot of bad luck, one thing after another, so I just feel like we deserved what we got today." "Lucas [Petersson] did a great job behind the wheel as well. When he handed me the car off and it was strong. I feel good!" The class podium at her first racing weekend in a long time is impressive but hardly surprising for such a talented driver that has always shown great potential in various top-class racing series despite an often underfunded career.
Freiberg made a name for herself in karting, coming from a non-racing family. She would advance to single-seaters in 2007 and later became the first woman to step on the podium and win a race in a Skip Barber National race. Between 2008 and 2010, she took 25 race wins and two series titles - before having to put her racing career on hold for funding issues. In 2012, she was back for more open-wheel experience in the very competitive Star Mazda Championship - where she took six top-10 finishes. Freiberg then ventured into sports car racing and entered the 2013 GT3 Cup Challenge: she became the first woman to win a North American GT3 Cup race after a dominant performance at Watkins Glen. Her GT racing career continued in the Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge - the main stepping stone to the IMSA championship. In 2014, she won the season opener at Daytona, again making series' history by becoming the first woman to win outright. But, despite the historic achievements, her sponsor money soon dried out and she could only enter 4 more races. Thanks to the BMW North America Scholarship Driver in 2015, Freiberg was back in the championship the following season and continued to impress with three more podiums and another overall victory. In 2016, she could finally graduate to the IMSA Sportscar Championship - also becoming the first North American woman to receive support from the FIA Women In Motorsport Commission. Sharing a BMW M6 GTD with Jens Klingmann and Bret Curtis in the Endurance Cup, she clinched a second place at the 12 Hours of Sebring. A driver that has raced some of the most elite sports car races in North America such as the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Daytona, Freiberg then made her debut in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo in 2017, scoring two podiums in the Pro class. She would return to the Daytona season opener of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge in 2018, sharing an Audi R8 LMS GT4 with Gosia Rdest - in the first all-female crew in the series. Since then, she has made occasional appearances behind the wheel, including a 2020 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge round with NTE Sport. Hopefully, her podium-scoring return in Lamborghini Super Trofeo is the opening of a new chapter for Ashley Freiberg, who clearly deserves a place in the sport.