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Daytona 24H preview: 7 women on the grid for a new sportscar era

The Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona is set to get underway with one of the biggest and most competitive GTD fields ever. Among them, seven female racers in three teams - and all of them showed good speed in the week leading up to the big race. Here's a preview of the iconic race and how the talented women will line up on the grid.


Photo credits: Iron Lynx / Andrea Lorenzina

One of the biggest weekends in motor racing - the 24 Hours of Daytona - is here, and there are plenty of talented female drivers on the grid of the 61st running of this legendary race. Seven women in three teams will in fact take the start in the GTD class. In the new #83 bright pink Lamborghini Huracan, the most famous quartet (Frey-Bovy-Gatting-Pin) is set to bring barrier-breaking team Iron Dames to their IMSA debut. The Italian team enters its first season as a manufacturer squad for Lamborghini, having switched from Ferrari machinery. In Florida, Iron Lynx will in fact begin its new era with the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2, as both the teams and drivers adapt and learn the new car. In the ROAR weekend of testing leading up to the 24 hour race, Iron Dames progressively built speed and got closer to the top ten in class - in one of the most competitive and biggest GTD fields ever. Michelle Gatting and Doriane Pin had raced together at the Lamborghini World Finals in Portimao towards the end of 2022; Sarah Bovy - a Lamborghini instructor prior to her involvement with Iron Dames project - had raced a Huracan GT3 at the 24H of Spa, as well as entered the Lamborghini Super Trofeo. GT ace Rahel Frey, on the other hand, is the only driver of the crew to have raced already at Daytona - and in a Lamborghini Huracan GTD, as she teamed up with Tatiana Calderon, Christina Nielsen and Katherine Legge in 2020. All four drivers significantly improved through the ROAR practice sessions; from a P17 in class of the first session, the Iron Dames got closer and closer to the top ten in GTD, which they hit in the third and fourth session - and then in wet conditions in FP5, logging a seventh place. While manufacturers kept an eye on the BoP ahead of the big race, the Acuras were among the fastest cars on track throughout the two-week sessions. And both the other two teams featuring female drivers on the grid will be running the Acura NSX GT3 EVO: Ashton Harrison in the #93 Racers Edge Motorsports with WTR and Katherine Legge and Sheena Monk in the #66 Gradient Racing crew. Harrison, 2022 GT World Challenge America ProAm champion as a rookie, is teaming up with Danny Formal, Kyle Marcelli and former Indycar star Ryan Briscoe in one of the most interesting driver line ups on the grid. The red-liveried Harrison Contracting Acura performed greatly in the week leading up to the race and looks strong enough to aim for a spot in the top five.


Photo credits: Jamey Price / WTR

Harrison - already winner of the 8 hours of Indy in 2021 - is at her first 24 hour of Daytona and at her second IMSA start, but will be able to rely on a hugely experienced crew - as Briscoe proudly owns three Rolex watches and Marcelli raced twice at the 24 hours. Racers Edge Motorsports started the ROAR with a second place in FP1, and went on with an eighth, fifth and seventh place before qualifying. They again slotted in second in class in the post qualifying FP2 practice. There are high hopes at Gradient Racing as well, with full-season drivers Katherine Legge and Sheena Monk also showing speed. For Legge, it will be her eleventh 24 hours of Daytona, the seventh in the GTD class. Legge experience in the race is exactly what rookie Sheena Monk needs, as she makes her first steps in GT3 machinery after racing in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo and in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, with several podiums to her name in the last couple of seasons. Focused on learning the car and managing the traffic alongside her long-time coach Katherine, Monk also recorded some very interesting lap times. “It’s been really good so far, but I’ve just taken things a little bit at a time and made sure I’m comfortable with how to manage traffic and getting used to the JG Wentworth Acura NSX GT3 Evo 22", Monk explained. "I’m used to being in the faster car in multi-class racing and doing the lapping, but not used to being in a GT car against faster prototypes – and we have five classes here - so learning where to place the car, use the spotters’ guidance and taking little chunks here and there has been the aim." Legge was second in the 2018 edition, when she also would finish runner up in the championship. In 2017, she scored the first ever win for the NSX GT3 and, as she returns to the Acura platform after a couple of years in the Porsche 911 GT3 R, she will surely aim to finally break the spell and put her hands on the class win - and her team seems up to the task as well.

Katherine and Sheena will in fact be aided by team regular Marc Miller and Acura factory driver Mario Farnbacher; the drivers of the #66 JG Wentworth Acura have clearly shown top-ten worthy pace across testing, with a sixth place as best result in the ROAR and a fourth place on Friday.


“I’m ecstatic to be back in an NSX GT3", said Legge. "I couldn’t be happier because it’s a car I love. Obviously the Evo 22 is the next step on from the car I loved and developed from its onset and it is quite different to drive now. We still have some work to do to dial it in perfectly, but we’ve done a good job so far. Just sitting in the feels like being back home. It’s awesome.”


Photo credits: Peter Lapinski

In the 15 minute qualifying session, Mario Farnbacher took the helm of the #66 Gradient Racing Acura, Kyle Marcelli was in command of the #93 Racers Edge NSX and Rahel Frey qualified the Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan. Farnbacher went fastest in the opening minutes - and was soon joined on top of the leaderboard by Marcelli, who improved all sectors. Farnbacher responded and reclaimed the top of the timing sheets with six minutes to go - when Rahel Frey left pit lane for her first timed attempts. Marcelli put the #93 Acura back on top soon later, in a spectacular duel that lasted until four minutes were left on the clock, when the #75 Sun Energy 1 Mercedes of Fabian Schiller improved and took provisional pole. Ellis would then set the new fastest time in the #3 Winward Mercedes, as Marcelli and Farnbacher slotted into fourth and fifth. “I’m thrilled for our P4 spot in qualifying", said Ashton Harrison after her teammate Marcelli qualified the car on the second row. "Kyle did a mega job in the No 93 Harrison Contracting Company Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 setting us up for starting in the front of the GTD field and mixing it up with some of the GTD Pro cars." "I think we’re in a great spot headed into the Rolex 24- for my first Rolex 24- and I’m just excited to be sharing the car with my teammates. We’ve had so much great prep work from the Racers Edge crew, and amazing support from Harrison Contracting and WTR Andretti. I think this sets the mood- everyone has a positive attitude, we’re excited, we feel like we’ve accomplished a lot at the ROAR." "I feel like the traffic is going to play a big role for everyone and taking advantage of that traffic is key", Harrison continued. "And then making sure we keep ourselves safe and out of trouble. The Acuras are performing well, and I’m really excited for the Acura Motorsports brand and looking forward to bringing them a victory in GTD.” Rahel Frey was 16th fastest in her first flying lap, but then improved under the chequered flag, bringing the Iron Dames Huracan up to P15, where the Italian team will start on Saturday. "It is great to start our 2023 season here at Daytona", Andrea Piccini, Iron Lynx Team Principal stated. "It is such an iconic race and this is the end of our first week here for the ROAR, where we have focused on getting to know the new cars and settling into the IMSA paddock." After an outstanding season in WEC, ELMS and GTWC, Iron Dames are set to start their new campaign, ready to impress overseas as well. The 61st 24 Hours of Daytona will go green on Saturday 28th January at 13:40 ET.


Starting positions:

P4 (GTD) - Racers Edge Motorsports with WTR

P5 (GTD) - Gradient Racing

P15 (GTD) - Iron Dames

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