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  • Writer's pictureIGOR LAERTE

Ira Sidorkova takes podium with strong performance on GT4 debut

On her return to sprint racing, Irina Sidorkova stood on the podium and collected important points on her first ever race weekend in GT4 machinery. She now sits in the top 4 of the drivers' standings.

Ira Sidorkova SMP RSKG GT4 Mercedes AMG
Photo credits: Grigory Golyshev

Twenty-year-old driver Irina Sidorkova made her return to sprint racing, in the RCRS national series. The round hosted at the Fort Grozny Autodrome also marked her debut in a new class - GT4, where she will drive a Mercedes-Benz AMG GT GT4, with her traditional number 51. Despite the challenges for the all new experience, as well as the changing weather during the weekend, the young driver showed her talent and achieved excellent results.

Track activities began on Friday in a free practice session marked by a certain balance of performance between some of the 11 drivers, with Sidorkova finishing 6th. A few hours later there was qualifying for the first race of the season. And she improved her personal best in lap time.

Her 1:20.229 lap - just over half a second behind pole-sitter Serguei Titarenko - gave her 4th position on the starting grid. Besides Sidorkova, the other woman on the GT4 class grid - the experienced Svetlana Gorbunova - qualified in 10th.

Race 1

The first race of the 2024 season took place on Saturday afternoon, following a rolling start procedure and in double lines, with Ira Sidorkova in P4, driving the #51 Mercedes. But despite the good results recorded over the weekend, she would have to face the first challenge to overcome in order to achieve the most points possible: right at the first corner, Sidorkova received contact from Andrey Solukovtsev and was spun around. Fortunately her car did not suffer severe damage and she rejoined, however in second to last position - P9.

Ira Sidorkova's reaction didn't take long. Although she completed the first lap 12 seconds behind the closest car, she managed to close the gap quickly and by lap 4 she had already overtaken Solukovtsev. Continuing at a great pace, Sidorkova made a beautiful overtake on Gorbunova, moving up to 7th place.

In the following laps, Sidorkova continued to press and closed the gap to the next opponents by 1 and a half seconds per lap: at the end of lap 14, she was already just behind the #11 and #56 cars of Dmitry Rodionov and Dmitry Anastasiadis when they collided while competing for positions. This opened the door to Ira Sidorkova, who gained one more position as she left Rodionov behind. A few metres later she would overtake Anastasiadis, rising to P5.

With just over 3 laps to go, Ira Sidorkova kept up the pace and tried to catch Sergei Stolyarov. She did close the 7.7 second gap, but time ran out to attempt a further pass. Thus, Sidokova finished race 1 in P5, just 2.7 seconds behind her opponent. Which was an excellent result for the 20-year-old driver, especially being her career debut in the GT4 class. Serguei Titarenko was the winner in race 1.

"The pace is excellent, just a few more laps, and I would definitely be fighting for 4th. Points have been scored, experience has been gained. Tomorrow we have two races ahead of us, we are determined and will fight." - said Ira Sidorkova about the first race of the season.

Ira Sidorkova SMP RSKG GT4 Mercedes AMG
Photo credits: Grigory Golyshev
Race 2

On Sunday morning weather conditions had changed, and with rain falling at the Fort Grozny Autodrom, race 2 was on a wet track. The starting grid was determined by the result of race 1, so Serguei Titarenko was on pole position. Ira Sidorkova lined up in P5 and Svetlana Gorbuna in P8.

When the lights went out, the first changes of positions and incidents of the race had already occurred in the first two corners of the circuit: Alexei Nesov took over the lead, Denis Remenyako spun and Ira Sidorkova climbed to P4. The safety car was deployed at the start of lap 2 to retrieve Remenyako's car, but before that, the lead had changed hands twice - with Nesov getting the better of Titarenko. On the 4th lap, the green flags were waved and racing resumed.

At the halfway point, leaders Nesov and Titarenko were already 3 seconds ahead of Sergei Stolyarov and Ira Sidorkova - who were in 3rd and 4th place respectively. Sidorkova was struggling to get closer to Stolyarov, but the asphalt had dried faster than expected and with her tyres having a higher pressure than the grip conditions required, the mission to fight for the podium became a little more complicated.

Without many changes in the top positions, Alexei Nesov repeated his victory, followed by Titarenko and Stolyarov. Ira Sidorkova crossed the finish line in 4th place, but with Titarenko's disqualification post-race, she inherited P3 and a few more points.

Race 3

The third and final race of the opening round of the 2024 RCRS season started almost three hours later and with a dry track. The reversed grid system saw the result of the previous race shaping up the starting grid: aboard her Toyota Supra #46, Svetlana Gorbunova became the first woman to occupy pole position this year. Once again, Ira Sidorkova would have to climb the order to fight for a place on the podium, as this time she lined up in P7.

And Sidorkova delivered in the first corners, gaining 3 positions and moving up to P4. Gorbunova - who had dropped to 5th position - lost control after the left rear wheel came loose in the last corner of the circuit and crashed hard into the pit wall. The safety car was deployed and Lev Tolkachev settled in the lead.

The race restarted on lap 6, with Ira Sidorkova and Alexei Nesov engaging in an intense duel - exchanging positions more than once. Sidorkova had dropped to P5, but shortly afterwards she switched back with a beautiful move on Rodionov, while at the same time defending from Stolyarov's attacks.

On lap 12, the moves that would define the final result of the race took place: Nesov took the lead, Sidorkova overtook Denis Remenyako, followed by Titarenko who closed in on her. Lev Tolkachev - who was in second position, hit trouble and stopped on track, as Sidorkova moved up to P2. However, Titarenko intensified the pressure in the final laps and Sidorkova defended herself hard as long as she could.

On the penultimate lap, Titarenko found a way past Sidorkova, who didn't give up fighting, but with little time left, she eventually took the checkered flag in P3 - her best result of the weekend - and consequently had the opportunity to stand on the podium for the first time this season. Alexei Nesov won the reverse grid race.

Ira Sidorkova SMP RSKG GT4 Mercedes AMG
Photo credits: Marat Daminov

After the race, Irina Sidorkova spoke about her impressions of her first round competing in the RCRS GT4 category: "Unfortunately, I couldn’t hold on to second position, but it’s still affected by the fact that after such a struggle I had in the fall of 2022 in the Super-Production class."

She continued: "Overall, I’m very pleased with my result and happy about the first podium in this class! By the next races I will feel more confident driving my new car and this means that I will continue to fight. In the meantime, debriefing, working on mistakes and preparing for the second round."

The excellent results gained Ira Sidorkova in fourth place in the drivers' standings - with 53 points collected. The next round of the RCRS will take place between May 31st and June 2nd, in Nizhny Novgorod - a circuit that brings back good memories of recent feats achieved by Sidorkova - where she will have the chance to show her progress in driving her new car and continue fighting at the top of the leaderboard.



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