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WEC: Early end to 6H of Imola for Iron Dames

Over before it started: a contact at the start shattered Iron Dames' chances at the 6 Hours of Imola after a promising qualifying, as the magenta Lamborghini Huracan was retired in the first hour for recurring issues.

Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy, Doriane Pin, Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO22, FIA World Endurance Championship 2024, 6 Hours of Imola
Photo by: Clément Luck / DPPI

Iron Dames endured a disappointing second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, as Sarah Bovy's promising qualifying pace was thwarted by a contact at the start when the #85 magenta Lamborghini Huracan was hit from behind.

After an initial repair, recurring electronic issues forced the all-female trio to a very early retirement, after running several laps behind the class leaders.

Just one week after a remarkable run at the European Le Mans Series' opener at Barcelona, where Iron Dames had dominated the vast majority of the race only to retire in the closing stages due to a technical issue after the final pit stop, the team was aiming to bounce back at the 6 Hours of Imola - a home race for Iron Lynx, the organization that runs the team, and Lamborghini. Steps forward were made at the WEC season opener in Qatar as well, where Michelle Gatting, Doriane Pin and Sarah Bovy had a solid run to finish eighth in the new LMGT3 class, showing good progress in the Huracan GT3.

On one of the most remarkable circuits on the calendar - a fast yet tight circuit with elevation changes and very limited room for errors - over 73,000 fans gathered at the Autodromo Enzo and Dino Ferrari for the first European round of the World Endurance Championship season. Iron Dames' line up welcomed back Doriane Pin - who recently announced a new racing program in Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine, alongside her F1 Academy campaign. The young star, 2023 revelation of the year in WEC at the wheel of the LMP2 Oreca, will therefore join the trio only for selected races - including the 24 Hours of Le Mans - with Rahel Frey taking over after Imola.

Gatting set the 1:43.851 lap that put Iron Dames in P12 in the first practice session; as it is often the case, the team focused on race performance and the #85 machine closed in on the top ten in the following sessions. In FP2, Pin recorded a 1:42.883, but all three drivers were separated by less than a second to each other. In the third session they were again eighth fastest - while the Aston Martin Vantage GT3s comfortably led the field.

Bronze-rated Sarah Bovy was as per regulations the driver elected to tackle the LMGT3 qualifying session on Saturday afternoon: the Belgian star put in one of her stellar performances, clocking a 1:42.924 on her second timed lap that put her second fastest, only behind the #92 Manthey PureRxcing Porsche driven by Aleksandr Malykhin - who were the only two drivers under the 1:43 mark.

With second place, Bovy's effort was largely enough to qualify for the Hyperpole, for the second consecutive time. The top ten then battled out for pole position in the following minutes, and Sarah qualified in fifth position with an equally strong run which placed the Iron Dames Lamborghini on the third row of the race. Aleksandr Malykhin set pole position, ahead of the Heart of Racing Aston Martin and the two Team WRT BMW M4 GT3.

Bovy was also behind the wheel of the #85 pink Huracan for the first stint of the race on Sunday in the early afternoon - but there was drama early on, as the Belgian was hit right as the lights went out, in a disastrous start that saw Yasser Shahin's #91 Porsche plowing into the back of the Iron Dames Lamborghini and then into wall. A multi-car accident involving both the Alpine hypercars as well as the #94 Peugeot and the #15 BMW occurred just ahead at turn 1, resulting in the first safety car of the race to be deployed.

While Bovy was down to ninth in LMGT3, she managed to take evasive action at turn 1 when the hypercars collided and initially seemed to have made it out relatively unscathed. At the restart, in fact, she immediately set the fastest sectors and gained two positions - but her Huracan GT3 Evo2 suddenly came to a halt and she dropped all the way down the order. Bovy completed a power cycle and the car was back up to speed soon afterwards.

Sarah tried to stay out - and indeed her pace suggested that the issue was fixed: she set the fastest lap in 1:43.535 on her first push lap. One lap later, though, she had to bring the car back to the pits, as the accident at the start had damaged the FIA torque sensor. This forced the team to stop to fix the issue.

Fifteen laps behind the LMGT3 leader, Sarah was finally back out on track 45 minutes into the race. 18th in class, Iron Dames started to chase the #91 Manthey Racing Porsche, also on the same lap. Having been deemed at fault for the starting accident, Shahin received a one minute stop and go penalty - and Bovy moved up one position as the race reached its first hour.

A few laps later, Bovy was among the fastest in LMGT3 and set some great laps - before she pitted once again on lap 24. Sadly, the team's rough day continued, as the car was again wheeled back into the garage, but Sarah could rejoin again two laps later.

Her times continued to be competitive, but the team eventually opted to retire the car due to recurring electronic issues.

After a run of 21 finishes, from 21 starts, Iron Dames suffered their first retirement in the World Endurance Championship.

While Imola will be a round to quickly forget, Iron Dames will regroup and reset for the next round at Spa Francorchamps on 10-11 May; before that, Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy and Rahel Frey will get behind the wheel of the magenta Porsche for the second race meeting of the European Le Mans Series at Circuit Paul Ricard, on 4-5 May.

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