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  • Writer's pictureIGOR LAERTE

Ira Sidorkova climbs the field from last to fourth in the RSKG Endurance season finale

Updated: Apr 2

After overcoming problems in the qualifying session, Ira Sidorkova and her teammate completed an incredible recovery to cross the finish line in 4th place overall in the final round of the RSKG Endurance, after a 6-hour race at the Sochi Autodrom.

Ira Sidorkova RSKG Endurance
Photo courtesy: Ira Sidorkova

Former W Series driver Irina Sidorkova completed her first full season in endurance racing last weekend. The 20 year old began a new stage in her career in 2023, aiming to improve her knowledge and experience in the evergrowing world of sports car racing. Sidorkova took part in the inaugural season of the new RSKG Endurance and was present in 3 out of the 4 scheduled rounds, having only missed out on the inaugural race - due to logistical reasons involving her team's equipment.

During the season there were some changes in the racing plan, which would initially be carried out on GT cars. In the opening two rounds, Ira Sidorkova was aboard a Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 - and impressed, achieving a podium in her first championship appearance, in the 4-hour race, in St. Petersburg, in May.

With experience in karting, formula, touring and GT cars, acquired throughout her journey in motorsport, from the second half of the season, Sidorkova started to drive a prototype car - the BR03. The national machine is equipped with a Renault V6 engine, aspirated, with 420 hp. In the 4-hour race in Grozny, she presented a great personal performance and despite the difficulties faced, the crew finished 4th in Group F class.

Ira Sidorkova then returned to the track for the last race of the year - which was also the longest, lasting 6 hours. The marathon held on Saturday, November 4, at the Sochi Autodrom also marked the last event on the full circuit layout, which will be reduced from the current 5.853 meters to just over 2 km in length.

The race

This time, Sidorkova shared the wheel of car #71 with experienced driver Kirill Ladygin, 44 years old - who has a podium finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016, in the LMP2 class. He drove the machine in the first stint of the race, and had to start in last position on the grid, which had 28 cars in total - 9 in Group F - due to a gearbox problem during qualifying on the previous day, which prevented the duo from recording a lap time.

Among the 72 drivers divided among the crews, there were two more women in addition to Sidorkova. Nadezhda Yakhnich (Winline Yakhnich Motorsport) and Tatiana Eliseeva (Shonx Motorsport).

Ira Sidorkova RSKG Endurance
Photo credits: Grigory Golyshev

When the race started, Ladygin had a stellar recovery drive, and at the end of the first lap he had already reached 8th place. Meanwhile, Capital Racing's Mercedes AMG GT3 #13 took the lead and tried to distance from the #11 BR03 - driven by former Formula 1 drivers Vitaly Petrov and Sergei Sirotkin. On the next lap he overtook 3 more cars, jumping to P5, but was still 12 seconds behind 4th place.

The first incident of the race happened 45 minutes into the race, when Iskra Motorsport's Toyota Supra #5 crashed into a tire barrier. The safety car took to the track, neutralizing the action until the damaged vehicle was removed by the marshalls. From that moment on, most of the teams began to make their first stops - including car #71, and Ira Sidorkova took command for the first time.

After 12 minutes of neutralization, when everything seemed under control for the restart, one more car had to be retrieved - the Ligier JS #91 from Winline Motorsport, which came to a halt and retired. The caution delayed the restart by 10 minutes and when the green flags were waved Sidorkova was in 5th position.

Sidorkova struggled to get closer, but the leaders were on a better pace and had a tight battle between them. Until Petrov and Sirotkin's BR03 #11 took the lead and shortly afterwards, another prototype hit the #13 Mercedes which spun and had its rear bumper damaged. With the #13 car entering the pits for repairs, Irina gained a position, putting the BR03 #71 in its best position during the race so far.

“The race was full of some technical difficulties for us, but we managed them almost perfectly, which gave us the opportunity to take fourth place!”

The race had just completed 1/3 of its duration when Ira Sidorkova pitted and swapped place with Kirill Ladygin, ending her first stint. The #71 prototype returned to the track in 5th position and with other cars in Group F stopping, the #17 machine driven by Victor Shaitar and Alex Smolyar temporarily took the lead.

Ira Sidorkova RSKG Endurance
Photo credits: Grigory Golyshev

Afterwards, when car #13 entered the pits once again, Ladygin returned to P4, and, during the round of pit stops, the Sidorkova / Ladygin crew car moved up to third. Kirill also had to stop, which shuffled them back to 5th position - where he remained during his second stint.

Ira Sidorkova returned aboard car #71 to perform her second stint with just over 2 hours remaining in the 6-hour marathon in Sochi.

50 minutes later, the #80 prototype hit trouble and stopped on track for a few moments. The yellow flags were shown and the vehicle was quickly removed by the marshalls, preventing the safety car from being deployed again. While there was still a big gap to 4th place, Sidorkova was up for the challenge, taking the crew to the position where they remained definitively until taking the checkered flag.

With just over 1 hour to go, a FYC was deployed - when a vehicle stopped in the second sector. During this period, the final driver change happened and Kirill Ladygin returned aboard car #71 to drive it to the finish line.

Some drive-through penalties and the superior pace of the leaders made the team's chances of a podium finish difficult, but after having to climb the order at the start, 4th place overall at the end of the race was a great result, crowning the recovery work done by the duo. Vitaly Petrov and Sergei Sirotkin won once again and took the title of the first season of the RSKG Endurance.

“The race was full of some technical difficulties for us, but we managed them almost perfectly, which gave us the opportunity to take fourth place! This is what makes endurance races interesting, where drivers and equipment are tested until the last minute. It's very difficult to predict the result!” - said Sidorkova on the result.

Ira Sidorkova RSKG Endurance
Photo credits: Mirax Motor Oil

Ira Sidorkova evaluated the duo's performance in the 6-hour race in Sochi: "We knew that in such a long race it is not the speed that matters, but the precision of the drivers to the maximum possible, the teams and the reliability of the equipment. Starting from last place, at the end of the first lap my partner Kirill Ladygin managed to take us to fifth place, having successfully and quickly dealt with the remaining cars."

She continued: "Our pace was consistent, we tried to drive without errors, but even so we had to make several passes through the pit lane as penalties. But as each of us achieved a very balanced pace, the maximum possible in those conditions. In the absence of pure speed, we achieved a good final result!"

"My teammate and I did our best and it ended up being a working race, with a good move from last to fourth. In principle, in the conditions in which we started, we achieved a good result with good points!" - she concluded, highlighting the duo's efforts.

Throughout the season Sidorkova collected 36 points - placing 9th overall in the drivers standings - which recorded the individual results of each competitor.

Ira Sidorkova RSKG Endurance
Photo credits: Mirax Motor Oil

Ira Sidorkova also shared her feelings about 2023 in an overview: "I was very happy to try endurance racing this season, I liked it, it's very different from regular sprints, but it still has its difficulties."

"I was pleased with my performances and the fact that I was able to try cars of different classes, the Ferrari GT3 and the prototype BR03."

She concluded by thanking the support received and talking about her expectations for next year: "I want to say thanks to my SMP Racing team and for all fans you was support me, and still support me! Now I don't have exact information about where I will compete next year. I really hope that next season, in addition to endurance, I will be able to compete in sprints!"



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