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  • Writer's pictureSIMONE PASSARELLO

ELMS: Iron Dames tackle the Temple of Speed, part 1

In a back-to-back at the Temple of Speed, the Iron Dames were sixth at round 4 of the European Le Mans Series, just one week ahead of the 6 Hours of Monza, where Sarah Bovy will make her WEC debut for the all-female team.

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey Photography

The all-female team Iron Dames, just a couple of years after its inception, extended its presence to 9 racing series and brought some of the most exciting female talents to the top GT and endurance championships in the world. In another extremely busy month of racing action for the team operated by Italian powerhouse Iron Lynx, Dames Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting and Manuela Gostner - the original trio, which were also joined by Sarah Bovy and Doriane Pin for the Michelin Le Mans Cup - headed to Monza for a back-to-back weekend at the iconic Temple of Speed of Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Italy. Frey-Gatting-Gostner were back behind the wheel of the #83 Iron Lynx Ferrari for the fourth round of the 2021 European Le Mans Series. After a positive start of the season in Catalunya, the trio had to face a couple of unfortunate weekends at Red Bull Ring and Paul Ricard, and entered the home race in Italy finally expecting a clean race for the entire 4 Hours of the competition. Danish driver Michelle Gatting took the wheel of the #83 Ferrari 488 GTE for the qualifying session on Saturday, and placed Iron Dames in seventh class position in the GTE class. Pole position went to the #55 Spirit Of Race Ferrari of Cameron/Pier Guidi/Perel. "Far from the qualifying we wanted or hoped for." - wrote Gatting. "A small technical issue which nobody could have done anything about prevented me from getting the maximum out of the car. The race is long and we will be fighting from P7 on the grid." The Monza 4-hour race finally got underway on Sunday morning, with Duncan Cameron maintaining the GTE leadership after the challenging first chicane at Monza. Behind him, François Perrodo at the wheel of the #88 AF Corse and Christian Reid in the #77 Proton Competition Porsche tried - unsuccessfully - to put pressure on the Briton's leadership, while the #80 Iron Lynx Ferrari driven by Rino Mastronardi was protagonist of a strong start from the back and quickly found its way up to the top three. On lap 5, Perrodo clinched the GTE Class leadership and Mastronardi continued the Italian team's strong run by grabbing second place; a few laps later, he would take advantage from a mistake from Perrodo at Turn 3. 40 minutes into the race, Christian Reid found the gravel - a development that called for the intervention of the Safety Car, but that left the #77 Porsche with no major damages, as Ried returned to pitlane. Mastronardi and Perrodo held the class lead after the restart, but the #88 AF Corse Ferrari was back ahead after a fastest first pit stop sequence. After the following pit stop, Iron Dames were as high as third, but after the entire sequence, Mastronardi could again clinch the top of the class timing screens. The action was halted for the first Full Course Yellow into the second hour, with the #80 sister Iron Lynx car that provisionally led over the second Italian team's car driven by Claudio Schiavoni. The duo soon had to watch their mirrors from Alessandro Pier Guidi, carrying momentum in the #55 Spirit Of Race Ferrari. With one hour left on the clock and after the last pit stop sequence of the day, Pier Guidi left the #55 Ferrari into David Perel's hands, on top of the GTE classification, followed by Miguel Molina in the #80 Iron Lynx Ferrari. The leading duo ran with a minimum gap for most of the final hour, but another full Course Yellow freezed the action with 30 minutes to go. Molina tried all in his power to get ahead and into the lead in the final minutes after the restart - but Perel was able to defend masterfully and then accumulated a comfortable gap when he could use traffic from other classes in his favour to claim the GTE class victory. The #55 Spirit Of Race Ferrari driven by Duncan Cameron, Alessandro Pier Guidi and David Perel clinched their first win of the 2021 season, as Iron Lynx completed the podium with a second an third place with the #80 and #88 cars - in what was effectively an all-Ferrari podium in Monza. The Italian brand was actually locking out the top six positions, with AF Corse and JMW Motorsport finishing in fourth and fifth. Panis Racing took the overall victory - the French squad's first ever win in the series - ahead of the #22 United Autosport and the #82 JOTA Oreca of Jazeman Jaafar/Sean Gelael. Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting and Manuela Gostner started from seventh and finished the first hour in fifth place in GTE, but then dropped to sixth into the second hour of racing, where they would eventually finish. After a podium at this same location one year ago, it wasn't the result that Iron Dames were striving for, with luck once again not on their side. "All three cars were fast, and we had a good strategy, but the timing of the caution periods did not help us." - commented Andrea Piccini, Iron Lynx Team Principal. "The Iron Dames drove impressively, but later in the race we all suffered a little in traffic – so we did well, but not well enough!" "We keep fighting till the luck is back on our side" - echoed Rahel Frey. "P6 only in the fourth ELMS round. Nonetheless Monza stole our heart - see you next week again", she added. Indeed, the home of the Italian Grand Prix - and one of the most historic racing venues in the world - will see the return of the team created by Deborah Mayer in 2019, as Michelle Gatting and Rahel Frey get ready for the next round in the World Endurance Championship. The team announced that Sarah Bovy will step in for Manuela Gostner - giving a chance to the latest Belgian addition to the all-female team. Bovy, a former W Series reserve driver, will make her debut at the top of endurance racing after really remarkable performances in the Michelin Le Mans Cup, where she races alongside 17-year old Doriane Pin. In Monza, Pin and Bovy were second in qualifying, only to secure the runner up spot in the 2-hour race on Saturday. The 6 Hours of Monza will get underway on Sunday 18th July at 12:00 CEST, with the first practice session starting on Friday 16th July at 15:30 (local).



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