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  • Writer's pictureIGOR LAERTE

Ira Sidorkova finishes in P4 in class in her first race in prototypes

Irina Sidorkova returned to the track for the third round of the RSKG Endurance - making her debut in a prototype car. Despite the challenges throughout the 4-hour race, she showed great performance in the Akhmat Race marathon.

Ira Sidorkova
Photo courtesy: Ira Sidorkova

Just over 4 months since her last race, Irina Sidorkova returned to the track to continue her main 2023 racing programme - and took another step forward in her journey in endurance racing. Competing for the first time in a full season of an endurance series, Sidorkova participated in the third round of the RSKG Endurance last weekend. The Fort Grozny Circuit hosted in fact the event of the recently opened series - which this year included the traditional 4-hour Akhmat Race.

Unlike the previous round, when she was aboard a Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, this time, the 20-year-old driver made her first career start driving a prototype car. The change of plans emerged over the last few months, when two units of the BR03 prototype vehicle were ready, opening up space for two more crews on the grid. Sidorkova took over car #71 and this time had experienced driver Sergei Zlobin as a teammate. Since June she had been carrying out tests with the car and two weeks before the race the duo's participation was made official.

The qualifying session was held on the morning of Sunday, October 8th - just under 4 hours before the start. Sidorkova drove the machine and showed a great performance, recording the 4th best lap - just 8 hundredths behind third place. However, the duo received a grid penalty, losing 10 places on the starting grid. Thus, the BR03 #71 began the marathon that would last 4 hours in P14, with Ira Sidorkova at the wheel.

The Race
Ira Sidorkova RSKG Endurance
Photo credits: Marat Daminov

In her first stint, she had the mission to climb the field and put the car back among the leaders. At the end of the opening lap, Sidorkova had already reached the top 10 and continued to push through, until reaching P5 in the first 20 minutes of the race.

When the BR03 #80 made its first stop, the only woman present on the track took 4th position overall - the duo's best position during the race.

She was still fighting to close in on Capital Racing's Mercedes AMG GT3 for P3, but suddenly a problem with her car's steering wheel forced her into the pits. Irina returned to the track 3 minutes later, in 12th place, as her work had come undone and had to charge back once again.

The race had reached the 50 minute mark when the first major incident occurred: the #17 prototype that was leading the race - driven by Alex Smolyar - spun in turn 1, with problems with the right rear wheel, which came loose while he was trying to return to the track.

The first FYC was then implemented so that the vehicle could be retrieved. After 12 minutes of neutralization, the green flag waved again and after the round of pit stops, Ira Sidorkova moved up to 5th place.

After the Mercedes #13 pit stop, Ira Sidorkova returned to P4; shortly afterwards, a new FYC was deployed for another stricken vehicle - and this wouldn't be the last time. After 1 hour and 30 minutes aboard the BR03 #71, during another FYC, Sidorkova returned to the pits for the second time, now to finish her opening stint.

"Having spent a little less than three hours behind the wheel in total, I was satisfied with my pace and stability."

Ira Sidorkova RSKG Endurance
Photo courtesy: Ira Sidorkova

Sergei Zlobin brought the machine back to the track 4 minutes later, in 9th position overall - 4th in class F. He did a good job, driving the car at a consistent pace until reaching P5 as the clock completed half of the marathon. At this moment there was the first scare for the team, when car #14 - from the Touring Light class - spun on track, forcing the drivers behind to take evasive action.

However, Zlobin ended up leaving the track, but managed to bring the car back and continue the race. The BR03 #17 wasn't as lucky, and left the race definitively, after colliding with the tire barrier. Another FYC was deployed and when the competitions resumed, Sergei Zlobin approached the #78 Toyota Supra - from the GT4 class - to move up another position overall.

Ira Sidorkova RSKG Endurance
Photo credits: Grigory Golyshev

In another critical moment, the #71 prototype was hit by a Toyota, while Zlobin was overtaking. Both cars went into the gravel, but the BR03 got stuck and also suffered severe damage to the rear suspension.

The machine was recovered and Zlobin took it to the pits, where the mechanics worked heroically and carried out the repairs within 30 minutes.

With just over 45 minutes to go, Irina Sidorkova returned to the track in the #71 car for her second stint in 17th position overall and she fought hard to minimize the damage caused by the collision. The sun was beginning to set and the car headlights were turned on in the final minutes of the race, as Sidorkova reached 14th place overall and fourth in class - where she remained until crossing the finish line.

The race was won by prototype #11 - driven by former Formula 1 drivers Vitaly Petrov and Sergei Sirotkin. Unfortunately, Sidorkova didn't reach the podium, but she showed her talent in her recovering drives up the order. Her pace still gained her 4th in class F.

"Despite the fact that the race took place without a podium, there were many positive moments for our crew."

Ira Sidorkova RSKG Endurance
Photo courtesy: Ira Sidorkova

We spoke to Ira Sidorkova after the 4-hour race and she highlighted the main aspects of her performance: "Despite the fact that the race took place without a podium, there were many positive moments for our crew that can be noted."

"For example, excellent qualification and good pace, which allowed us to compete with the leaders. Also, throughout the entire race I had excellent speed, and in less than 25 minutes I caught up with Mercedes in the fight for the top positions."

She continues: "I am also very pleased that I spent almost 3 hours behind the wheel and remained in good physical shape and did not suffer from fatigue. The team also did a great job, quickly fixing our prototype after the contact. Overall, I gained a lot of experience throughout the race and it was great training for me."

Sidorkova also spoke about her first experience behind the wheel of a prototype car in a race, and made a comparison with the formula cars she had already driven in previous seasons: "BR03 is a prototype, due to its aerodynamics it is similar in behavior to a formula car. There is just as much of it here, and it is felt the same way and plays a huge role in speed."

Ira Sidorkova RSKG Endurance
Photo courtesy: Ira Sidorkova

"It was important to believe again that the car could maintain high speed in a turn due to the wings, since I had not driven a formula car for a long time."

She completed: "At first I thought that I had forgotten this feeling, but no, it is with me, so I had no problems with the adaptation. Except that BR03 is larger and heavier than the formula; these points also had to be taken into account. Well, since it has closed wheels, the slightest contact is not as scary as in the formula, we were very convinced of this during the race."

The fourth and final round of the inaugural RSKG Endurance season is scheduled for November 4th, and the Sochi Autodrom will host the 6-hour race. Until then, Ira Sidorkova will continue her arduous training routine to be in the best physical shape and fight for the top of the championship's final standings.

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Carol Lawrence
Carol Lawrence
Apr 12

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