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GTWC: Iron Dames' outstanding podium run halted by late brakes issue

Iron Dames made leaps forward with Lamborghini machinery and, after a near perfect race at the 1000km of Paul Ricard, the all-female trio was one hour away from a podium in the Bronze Cup - before brakes issues forced the #83 Huracan to an extra pit stop.

Photo: SRO / Twenty-One Creation, Jules Benichou

Iron Dames had their best outing to date in Lamborghini machinery at the 1000km of Paul Ricard, in a flawless performance by Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting that was about to put the #83 pink Huracan on the podium in Bronze Cup.

Run by new Lamborghini factory team Iron Lynx, in fact, the all-female team had a difficult start of the season in both GTWC Europe and IMSA, having marginally missed out on the Gold Cup title in 2022. As the team continued to progressively learn the machinery, the Iron Dames made a good step forward at Monza where they claimed a top ten in class, clearly aiming to progress even further at the 6-hour race at Paul Ricard that precedes the 24 Hours of Spa - the flagship event of GT World Challenge.

That is exactly what happened in the South of France: the Italian team showed a big step forward throughout the weekend, which allowed the three talented drivers to fight for their first podium in the Huracan GT3 EVO2.

Having worked in practice and pre-qualifying to look for speed, the #83 Iron Dames Lamborghini made another improvement in qualifying on Saturday morning: Rahel Frey was behind the wheel for the first session and set a 1:56.277 that put her in P15 in the bronze class. It was then time for Sarah Bovy to take over driving duties and the Belgian improved on her teammate's previous time by a little over one tenth of a second, setting a 1:56.120.

Michelle Gatting briefly led the third session and eventually completed Q3 in P11 among the Bronze Cup entries, clocking a 1:44.943 that represented Iron Dames' best lap across all sessions. The improvement allowed the #83 Lamborghini to move up to ninth in the aggregate classification that set the starting grid.

Photo: SRO / Twenty-One Creation, Jules Benichou

Overall pole sitter Jules Gounon led the 57 car field into the first chicane, while there was chaos in the midst of the massive pack: the #78 Barwell Lamborghini of Collard hit the barriers and was already out of the race, as more spins and incidents eventually triggered the safety car.

From ninth in Bronze Cup, Sarah Bovy was extra cautious on the first lap but also quick to seize opportunities: the Belgian racer moved up to eighth. At the restart, 15 minutes into the race, Bovy traded places with the CSA Racing Audi of Legeret, but positions were ultimately unchanged. Sarah was then part of a multiple-car train battling for positions in the Bronze Cup that also included the Theeba Motorsport Mercedes of Reema Juffali and the Herberth Motorsport Porsche of Ralf Bohn.

Bovy and Juffali carved their way through traffic and both made brilliant moves stick on the Porsche of Bohn. One hour into the race, Sarah Bovy had also overtaken the Theeba Motorsport Mercedes during the first round of pit stops and moved up to sixth.

Bovy closed in on the Sky Tempesta McLaren and clinched fifth place in class on lap 43 - in yet another spectacular stint by the Belgian, who continued to gain ground on the Garage 59 McLaren of Prette, previously started on pole position.

After another very solid second stint, Sarah Bovy handed the #83 Lambo to Rahel Frey in fifth position on lap 64. Frey had some strong laps and settled in sixth place, but closed in progressively on the AF Corse Ferrari of Louis Machiels. The Swiss driver eventually got ahead of Machiels, reclaiming fifth almost at the mid-way point of the race.

At the 3 hour mark, the third round of pit stops saw Rahel Frey moving up to third in the pit stop cycle, having extended her stint by a few laps. Michelle Gatting was up next in the pink Huracan - and after a clean pit stop she gained one position. For the first time this year, Iron Dames were comfortably battling within the top five in class.

Gatting overtook the Herberth Motorsport Porsche of Ralf Bohn for third with 2 hours and 33 minutes to go, in what had been easily Iron Dames' strongest race with Lamborghini machinery this year.

Photo: SRO / Patrick Hecq Photography

With two hours to go, Iron Dames temporarily took the class lead during the fourth round of pit stops. Gatting pitted on lap 124 and remained behind the wheel - but just as Gatting was closing in on Arjun Maini, Iron Dames' chances of a podium were shattered with 1 hour and 19 minutes to go.

The pink Huracan was wheeled back in the garage requiring new brakes and, two laps later, Rahel Frey emerged back on track, having now dropped to tenth.

Rahel Frey, though, was on a charge and soon recovered three positions. 20 minutes later, Frey was less than 10 seconds behind the #31 Team WRT BMW, but had to pit again for one last time with 15 minutes to go - which eventually put an end to any chance for a top five.

With 7 minutes to go, the long-time class leading McLaren of Henrique Chaves came to a halt and lost a wheel. That handed first place to the #79 Haupt Mercedes of Arjun Maini, with Andrea Bertolini's AF Corse and the Sky Tempesta McLaren moving up into podium positions.

After a highly positive but ultimately unfortunate race, Iron Dames were ninth at the chequered flag - having nevertheless proven once again to belong to the top three.

"Frustrating end for a tough but almost successful race week", wrote Sarah Bovy. "We never went so close to our first podium with Lambo but brakes issues forced us to an extra long pitstop and we lost everything there", she explained. "Super disappointed but happy with the steps we made lately! We stay focused on the positive sides and we keep pushing!"

While the next round of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup will be at the most important GT3 race in the world - the iconic 24 Hours of Spa that brought Iron Dames under the global spotlight last year thanks to a historic victory - the all-female team will have another important appointment: the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Right at the end of the 1000km of Paul Ricard, in fact, Bovy, Frey and Gatting headed to La Sarthe, where testing started on Sunday.

Photo: SRO / Twenty-One Creation, Jules Benichou



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