Hectic 6 Hours of Spa for Iron Dames & Lilou Wadoux
Even if a last minute driver line-up revision changed the plans for Iron Dames, the potential for a podium was still there at the 6H of Spa - but circumstances and rain made for a challenging event for Rahel Frey, Doriane Pin and Christina Nielsen. Similarly, Lilou Wadoux, at her second start for Richard Mille Racing Team, managed nevertheless to score good points.
After an overseas season opener in Sebring, the World Endurance Championship was back to the iconic circuit of Spa Francorchamps and certainly left no room for boredom: the 6 Hours of Spa already started with drama, then the unexpected rain that started to fall approximately after two hours of racing - which didn't make it easier for anyone.
Iron Dames - LM GTE AM
Iron Dames' weekend didn't start as everyone would've imagined: Sarah Bovy tested positive for Covid-19 and wasn't able to take part in the race. Michelle Gatting was consequently unable to participate as she was a close contact of Sarah.
The helm of the #85 Ferrari was then passed to Doriane Pin, young promising driver from France, and Christina Nielsen, two-time champion of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the US, who didn't hesitate to jump on the first flight to Belgium.
"Getting a call Wednesday and jumping straight into a type of car I haven’t driven in 4 years - and then getting to do it at SPA! The team and my teammates helped me get back into a rhythm before I had to QF." Nielsen said.
After some impressing results in all the free practice sessions, Christina Nielsen, at the wheel of the #85 Ferrari 488 GTE, managed to qualify in fourth position in the LM GTE AM class, just as Sarah Bovy did in Sebring, confirming the potential that the team showed during the first race.
As lights went out, Christina had an amazing start, maintaining the perfect line into Turn 1 until a contact with the #56 Project 1 Porsche, which was later penalized, pushed the car in the gravel. Luckily, with the help of the marshals, Nielsen was able to rejoin the track and continue the race, even if a massive gap separated her from the rest of the group.
"I got to start the race but was rear ended by a competitor on Lap 1 in the first corner and we never got back in the game after that point." Christina said.
Iron Dames were not the only team to hit trouble: the leading GTE PRO Porsche had a contact with its sister car and caused the first of many Safety Car periods, which helped, even if minimally, Christina's comeback.
The first hour of the race went by, with Nielsen trying her best to gain back all those lost positions - but was soon interrupted by the second safety car, triggered by an LMP2 crash. As the sky was looking more and more dark, with threatening clouds arriving over the track, the race was red flagged to repair the barriers and, while the cars were all lined in the pits waiting for the restart, rain started to come down.
The race resumed and, with rain getting more and more insidious, a lot of drivers started to make mistakes that often caused yellow flags; Rahel Frey jumped in the car and, on the other hand, drove brilliantly, without any smudge. Drama though, was around the corner: the #8 Toyota hypercar broke down and couldn't be touched for security reasons, leading to the longest red flag period of the race.
"Racing at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is never easy, especially when the elements and luck are against you. Yesterday's race was definitely one of the craziest races I've ever done - and I've done quite a few." Rahel said.
The rain became heavier, turning into a storm. After one lap behind the safety car, the race was red flagged again. After the restart, Rahel had a contact with the D'Station Racing Aston Martin but, luckily, there was no major damage to the Iron Dames' car.
Rain kept falling as Doriane Pin started her stint, with the car still in P12. The French driver, at her debut in the World Endurance Championship, managed to complete an impeccable stint, despite the yellow flags and full course yellow laps caused by a lot of mistakes from the other cars.
Rain finally stopped and Doriane started to fight for positions: she brought the car in 10th place at the finish line, doing an impressive job. Even if the starting position could easily be converted into a podium, the final result could've been worse. If only luck had been on their side.
"Of course this is not the result we had hoped for, but we have gained great experience.
The race was full of challenges, we were unfortunately spun by another car at the start, then several red flags, safety cars, and changing weather conditions during the race." Doriane stated.
Richard Mille Racing Team - LMP2
Qualifying session saw Charles Milesi at the wheel of the #1 Richard Mille Racing Team LMP2, who put the car in 10th position for the race. As the start was tricky, with a lot of blockings in the whole field - being turn 1 a really challenging one - Milesi was able to attack immediately and gained two positions by the end of the first hour of the race.
Sebastien Ogier got behind the wheel and continued to maintain the #1 LMP2 Oreca wthin the points, even if the rain made racing conditions even more challenging for them as it did with the rest of the pack. After the race was red flagged because of the #8 Toyota trouble and the incoming storm, Lilou Wadoux started her first stint, with the car in tenth position.
She had a great stint, even if the rain conditions weren't ideal and led every driver to make small mistakes. Between a yellow flag and another, Wadoux lended back the car to Charles Milesi, after an off-track moment that slightly damaged the car's nose. Milesi's stint brought the car back into the points.
Lilou got back in the car for the last stint and brought it to the checkered flag in eight position, collecting important points for the championship. It surely was an eventful race, with lots of twists and turns, but Richard Mille Racing Team made the best out of it.
Even if the race was hectic and challenging, both Iron Dames and Lilou Wadoux showed their potential. The World Endurance Championship is now heading to the most coveted race of the championship: the 24h of Le Mans. We'll see what these fierceful girls have in store, but we know that they won't disappoint.