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  • Writer's pictureRACERS

Early Iron Dames recovery halted by technical issue at Sebring

Despite a disappointing weekend, the whole Iron Dames team showed once again determination and racecraft in the opening stages of the 12 Hours of Sebring, charging back from the tail end of the field to the top five before a technical issue forced the #83 Lamborghini to an early retirement.

Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan EVO 2, 12H of Sebring 2024
Photo by: Iron Lynx

The second round of the 2024 IMSA SportsCar Championship turned out to be a very challenging one for groundbreaking all-female team Iron Dames, who faced adversities throughout the weekend that eventually ended in an unfortunate DNF at the 12 Hours of Sebring.

One year after their double-duty commitment in both the 12H race as well as the WEC 1000km of Sebring - ran one day apart - the team was back at the famously demanding racetrack to continue the progress made at Daytona - where Bovy, Frey, Gatting and Pin were sixth in the GTD class - as well as at the FIA WEC season opener in Qatar, where steps forward were made with the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo 2.

At Sebring, Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting focused as usual on the race preparation in the practice sessions and were aiming to build speed ahead of qualifying - but the team already hit trouble when Sarah Bovy's car suffered a faulty tyre issue that prevented the fast Belgian from setting a single lap time in qualifying.

As per regulations, the Iron Dames car couldn't change the tyre and would have to start from the back of the 58 car field - although post-session penalties meant that the pink Lamborghini moved up to P52 overall and 18th in the GTD class.

On a hot and sunny Florida day, the 12 Hours of Sebring was underway with some of the best teams and drivers in sports car racing taking turns behind the wheel, in one of the most coveted endurance races in the sport.

The GTD field accelerated away - and there was carnage at turn 1, as Davide Rigon's #52 Ferrari spun across the track and the Inception McLaren of Brandon Iribe ended up with damage from avoiding action. Taking the start for Iron Dames, Sarah Bovy perfectly avoided the pile up and made up positions, slotting into 14th place, just ahead of Sheena Monk's Gradient Racing Acura.

Bovy caught Ian James' Aston Martin and, although she had to deal with the recovering Winward Racing Mercedes of Philip Ellis, Sarah was smart in traffic. No time was lost battling with the GTD Pro Corvettes - who had been sent to the back of the field due to a technical infringement in qualifying - and, by using the hypercar traffic with experience, Bovy went three wide on lap 7 and completed a bold move to pass the #27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin. Once ahead, she then went on to match the leading cars on pace, also setting purple sectors.

A full course yellow 40 minutes into the race for debris at turn 17 interrupted the action for the first time; there was chaos in pit road for the first GTD pit stops when the #45 WTR Lamborghini stalled at the end of pit lane, creating a traffic jam. Nevertheless, Bovy made up positions during the pit stop cycle and was now up to P11 before the green flag waved again on lap 24.

The Iron Dame managed to break into the top-10 by passing the #21 AF Corse Ferrari as the race reached the one hour mark, then made further progress by overtaking the #80 Lone Star Racing Mercedes.

Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan EVO 2, 12H of Sebring 2024
Photo by: Iron Lynx

In clear air, Bovy was one of the fastest in class and soon caught the pole-sitting Cetilar Racing Ferrari in eighth. Moments later, the safety car was deployed for the accident of Michael Dinan's Tower Motorsport's LMP2 car, who had crashed in the tyre barriers at turn 13. Still on a single pit stop, Sarah Bovy was up to fourth and pitted once the pit lane opened on lap 54, handing over to Michelle Gatting. It was a good stop for Iron Dames and the Dane held sixth once the green flag waved again.

Gatting stayed behind the wheel at the third round of pit stops, when the Iron Dames Huracan climbed to fourth place in GTD. Despite the start from the back of the field, the all female crew was showing their trademark speed and everything was pointing in the right direction: a typically competitive first stint for Bovy, echoed by great pace for Gatting - who had been fast all weekend.

Everything was going according to plan - until it wasn't.

A technical issue for the #83 Iron Dames Lamborghini slowed down Michelle Gatting, who initially lost positions to Sbirrazuoli and Rovera, then James, Molina and Calderon. With Gatting falling to ninth, Iron Dames waited for a caution to bring the car back to the pits for repairs. Despite a spin for a LMP2 car, the yellow did not come and Gatting was then forced to pit several times in order not to lose too many laps. The car slowed down again and, once back out on track, Gatting tried to hold on but was dramatically dropping down the order and it was brought behind the wall for repairs.

Rahel Frey took over, but the pink Lamborghini struggled to get back up to pace and they slipped 8 laps behind the class leader.

Frey's car emerged again after another lengthy stop and the Swiss ace completed a few laps before coming back to the pits as the issue continued to thwart the #83 machine.

The team worked relentlessly to fix the technical issue, which was eventually fixed and Rahel was sent back out on track, running again up to speed. Now 34 laps behind, though, the team decided to ultimately retire just before the sixth hour of racing, in order to preserve the car for the upcoming races.

Although disappointing, the drivers and the whole team showed once again their determination and racecraft in the opening hours of the race, charging back from the tail end of the field to the top five in spectacular fashion.

Iron Dames will be back on track at Barcelona for the start of their European Le Mans Series season, at the wheel of the Porsche 911 GT3 R in the new LMGT3 class. New Dames Célia Martin and Karen Gaillard will join the team for the start of their Michelin Le Mans Cup campaign. 



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