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  • Writer's pictureALICE CECCHI

Epic drive for Sophia Floersch at Red Bull Ring

Sophia Floersch was the protagonist of an epic drive at Red Bull Ring - sixth round of the Formula 3 Championship - which ended in a historic ninth place finish and her first point scoring finish. While the result was eventually taken away for a technical non-compliance explained by the team with a hit on the curb, Floersch finally got the opportunity to showcase her speed.


Photo by: Alpine Academy

It surely was an eventful weekend for Sophia Floersch in Austria, on what she described as one of her favourite circuits. Between tricky weather conditions and a heavy atmosphere, the racing was everything but easy last weekend. The first half of the FIA Formula 3 season has not been the easiest for Floersch, who returned to the third-tier series a week before the start of the championship after focusing for a few seasons in sportscar racing and joined PHM Racing, a new team for the championship.


While she started to gain back confidence with the car quite quickly, Sophia had shown promising potential and consistently finished ahead of all her teammates in both qualifying and races. Nevertheless, bad luck and a few issues didn't make it simple for the German racer.


The Austrian round also brought its own challenges, with track limits being enforced stricter than ever. During the free practice session, many drivers had their lap times canceled - and the trend continued into qualifying. Sophia managed to qualify 20th, thanks to her familiarity with the track and her confidence with the car - finally competitive enough to show her potential. Floersch was less than a second off Gregoire Saucy (ART Grand Prix), the eventual pole sitter of a thrilling qualifying session.


SPRINT RACE

Saturday morning was not off to a positive note, as the motorsport world woke up to the tragic news of the passing of Dutch racer Dilano Van't Hoff, following an accident in Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine at Spa. This shocking event clearly affected every single driver and people in the paddock - making for a heavy atmosphere also at Red Bull Ring.


With heavy rain also falling over Spielberg, the Formula 3 sprint race went underway with Pepe Martì (Campos Racing) taking the lead after starting from pole; the Spaniard held position until the safety car was deployed as Oliver Gray (Carlin) and Rafael Villagomez (Van Amersfoort Racing) made contact. Floersch tried to gain positions and moved up to 18th place before the neutralization. Conditions were tricky but Sophia did not make mistakes and brought it home in P18 - in what was her fifth top-20 of the season so far.


The race was ultimately won by Paul Aron (PREMA Racing) after a thrilling battle with Gabriele Minì (Hitech Pulse-Eight), Caio Collet (Van Amersfoort Racing) and Pepe Marti.


Photo by: Formula Motorsport Ltd
FEATURE RACE

But it was Sunday's race that turned out to be a real breakthrough performance for Floersch. On a sunny Austrian day, everyone gambled on setups after the wet running in the previous days. The lights went out for the feature race - and the safety car was soon out on track when Gabriele Mini had a contact with his teammate Luke Browning and was sent into the gravel.


Then racing was back underway - and battles were as close as ever, with most of the field separated by tenths of a second throughout the 30 car grid. From 20th on the grid, Floersch soon made it into P19 - and then continued to climb the order with either good, clean passes, as well as by taking advantage of a few mistakes from drivers ahead.

Floersch's pace was highly competitive and, once in clean air, she soon caught up with the cars ahead - ready to gain more positions. She followed closely Hugh Barter and CHristian mansell for most of the second half of the race and was often faster, as she tried to find a way past. On the penultimate lap, Floersch made it to the top-10 - in a remarkable drive that would have gained her the first point scoring finish of her career.

On the final lap, Sebastian Montoya made a mistake and recovered from a trip to the gravel - which resulted in Sophia Floersch grabbing ninth place. She crossed the finish line in P9: a historic result for the series itself, as Floersch would have been the first woman to score points in the championship since the rebranding from GP3 Series.


The soft compound was employed at Red Bull Ring for the first time - which made tyre degradation a key point in the second part of the race. Floersch's background in endurance racing gave her the extra experience in saving the tyre and, in the closing stages, she continued to lap extremely competitively - showing pace to finish possibly even higher.

“I think that's just what endurance has taught me in the past two years, to really try and save tyres and try to drive corners differently. Also when you're fighting how to really try to manage them and in the end it worked out", she said at the end of the race.

Zak O'Sullivan (PREMA Racing) made his way to victory, followed by Gabriel Bortoleto (Trident) and Caio Collet. With P9, Sophia Floersch was by far the top PHM driver again - this weekend with McKenzy Cresswell also joining the series - and the top placed Alpine Academy driver.

Her efforts, though, went unrewarded when the unpleasant news arrived later in the day: following post-race inspections, Sophia was disqualified from the Feature race.

"The front wing endplates were less than the prescribed 70mm above the reference plane" - states the report from the technical delegate.


Summoned by the stewards, PHM Racing explained the non-compliance with a hit on a curb, but the standard penalty for a technical infraction was still applied.

Even though her 2 points won't appear on the standings, Floersch put on a brilliant fight and finally got the opportunity to showcase her speed at Red Bull Ring. She will have another chance at Silverstone next weekend; with a competitive car, her history-making achievement will just have to wait a little longer.

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