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Iron Dames claim second top-5 finish at Le Mans 24H

"This year was the best we could have hoped for, and we'll have to hopefully come back and try to finish on the podium." - For the second consecutive season, Iron Dames completed the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours in the top five – having maximised their package with flawless drives and a strategy masterclass in changeable weather.

Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting, Rahel Frey, Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Le Mans 24H 2024
Photo credits: FIA WEC / DPPI

The 24 Hours of Le Mans, a legendary race and a pinnacle achievement for any racing driver worldwide, continues to be the ultimate test for both athletes and machines. This year's 92nd edition showcased the ever-growing popularity of endurance racing, highlighted by an all-star entry list and the expansion of Hypercar and GT categories.

The 2024 race confirmed the golden era for endurance, featuring a record number of entries: 23 Hypercars, 16 LMP2 cars, and 23 LMGT3 entries. The LMGT3 category, based on the GT3 platform, replaced the previous GTE specifications, bringing fresh competition to the event. The history and prestige of Le Mans make it one of the most sought-after achievements in a racing driver's career and a key component of the Triple Crown, alongside the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix.

The race is not only a grueling test of endurance for teams but also a showcase of engineering and commitment from manufacturers worldwide. The 2024 edition was particularly remarkable, filled with intense action and unpredictable battles across all classes until the final moments – and in the most challenging weather conditions.

A standout feature continues to be the participation of the Iron Dames, the only female entries in 2024. The groundbreaking team, consisting of Michelle Gatting, Rahel Frey, and Sarah Bovy, entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the sixth time. Despite the absence of Doriane Pin, who was initially part of the lineup but had to withdraw due to an injury, the experienced Rahel Frey stepped in to complete the team. They competed in the #85 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2 adorned with a special livery dedicated to the "Every Dream Matters" campaign, symbolizing the essence of childhood imagination and dreams.

The Iron Dames have a strong track record at Le Mans, consistently finishing in the top ten with three ninth places, a seventh place, and a remarkable fourth place last year. Coming off a final victory in the LMGTE category in the World Endurance Championship (WEC), the team faced the challenge of mastering a new category, car, and brand in the LMGT3 era. Despite impressive performances in the early FIA WEC rounds of 2024, circumstances outside of their control prevented Gatting, Bovy, and Frey from securing a win, yet.

Le Mans has always been the Iron Dames' biggest target, and they returned to the iconic Circuit de la Sarthe with high hopes of improving on their best result. In 2022, Rahel Frey made history by becoming the first woman to secure a spot in the HyperPole session. In 2024, Michelle Gatting narrowly missed replicating this achievement by just 0.030 of a second, earning ninth place on the starting grid for Saturday's race.

Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting, Rahel Frey, Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Le Mans 24H 2024
Photo credits: FIA WEC / DPPI

The morning of the race day began with an encouraging warm-up session for Rahel Frey. The Swiss racer was also designated to take the start at 4PM, leveraging her extensive experience to navigate the initial and often chaotic phase of the 24-hour marathon.

Under menacing skies and on a damp and cold track, the cars lined up on the grid. The atmosphere was charged with anticipation as Zinedine Zidane waved the French flag, officially starting the race.

Starting from ninth on the grid, Frey maintained her position and slotted behind Iron Lynx’s teammate Matteo Cressoni. The LMGT3 field was led by Frederik Schandorff driving the Inception Motorsport McLaren, with the pack surviving an incident-free start. The initial laps were crucial for setting the pace and avoiding early mishaps on cold tyres and Frey’s experience was evident.

The early stages of the race saw Frey engaging in a fierce battle with the #59 United Autosport McLaren driven by Gregoire Saucy. Positions were traded multiple times, particularly on the Mulsanne straight. The Manthey Porsche held up a group of LMGT3 cars and created a tricky traffic situation as hypercars began lapping the LMGT3 field on lap 6.

Forty minutes into the race, the first pit stops began. Frey pitted from P14 and remained behind the wheel. As the rest of the class pitted a lap later, Frey moved back up to P12, with several teams opting to line up their AM drivers at this stage.

Rahel caught and passed Hoshino and then picked up another position on Hawksworth, moving up to P11. Traffic fluctuations briefly shuffled her back, but she quickly recovered to 11th after a brilliant pass under braking on the Heart of Racing Aston Martin driven by Ian James. Her pace improved significantly, running consistently fast laps throughout her second stint. By the time she pitted again on lap 19, she had made substantial progress.

A well-executed pit stop by the crew allowed Frey to jump ahead of several cars, rejoining in eighth place and having passed James Cottingham’s United Autosport McLaren. With some clear air ahead, Frey also cleared Ahmad Al Harthy’s Team WRT BMW, securing sixth after 90 minutes of racing.

As Frey closed in on the PureRxcing Porsche, the weather began to play a more significant role. Rain in fact arrived at La Sarthe, complicating the already challenging race conditions. While several cars pitted for wet tyres, Frey made the strategic decision to stay out on slicks, moving up into third place. This bold choice demonstrated the Iron Dames' ability to adapt to changing conditions – a constant that would mark the entire race.

Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting, Rahel Frey, Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Le Mans 24H 2024
Photo credits: FIA WEC / DPPI

Frey caught and overtook Ryan Hardwick, although Christopher Mies managed to sneak past her. Frey continued to put pressure on the #44 Proton Mustang, and the gamble to stay on slicks paid off as the rain eased.

Rahel’s remarkable stint came to a close as she pitted for the first driver change on lap 40, with Sarah Bovy taking over the wheel of the #85 Huracan. The Belgian racer had an excellent outlap and quickly began gaining time over her rivals. As more LMGT3 cars pitted, Bovy climbed to fifth, having also cleared Yasser Shahin. Despite managing heavy traffic and intermittent rain, Bovy overtook Takeshi Kimura for fourth.

A full course yellow was called soon after Bovy’s stint began, but the green flag followed immediately. Bovy pitted from fourth on lap 50, maintaining a good rhythm. Just as she left the pits, another FCY was deployed: at the restart, Bovy found herself in sixth, defending well from Malykhin, but the two traded positions as the race approached its fourth hour.

The Belgian continued to push hard, setting her personal best lap in 4:01.5. A slow zone was deployed when the #35 Alpine hypercar came to a halt with engine issues. While running with a safe margin, Bovy was unfortunately hit by the #4 hypercar Porsche at the Porsche Curves, sending the #85 Lamborghini into a spin. Sarah rejoined immediately but had lost over a minute, dropping to P13 in class. The #4 Porsche was handed a drive-through penalty for the incident.

Despite the setback, Iron Dames continued to fight back. Bovy, running several seconds per lap faster than the cars ahead, caught and passed Johnny Laursen with a great move at the exit of the Dunlop chicane. Next up was the GR Racing Ferrari, 19 seconds ahead. Bovy closed the gap and soon returned to the top ten with 5 hours and 30 minutes elapsed. By lap 80, Sarah had reduced the gap to Wainwright to 6 seconds before pitting at the end of a triple stint from ninth place in LMGT3 and handing over to Michelle Gatting as darkness approached.

Rain reappeared as Gatting almost caught the #87 Akkodis Lexus. Several cars pitted for wets, but Gatting stayed out, making it back into the top ten. The rain soon eased, and the Iron Dames' gamble paid off. Gatting battled with Ian James and was glued to the back of the Heart of Racing Aston Martin when a Full Course Yellow was deployed for an incident involving the sister Iron Lynx Lamborghini of Claudio Schiavoni. One lap later, the green flag waved again, and Gatting made a great pass, gaining sixth place after a brilliant recovery.

Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting, Rahel Frey, Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Le Mans 24H 2024
Photo credits: FIA WEC / DPPI

Michelle soon closed a 13 second deficit eventually reclaiming the top five during pit stops. Iron Dames completed their 9th pit stop just as the safety car was out for the first time in the race, following an accident for the #15 BMW hypercar that had damaged the barriers after contact with Kubica’s Ferrari.

Up to fifth, the neutralization gave Iron Dames the chance to make up for the time lost during their contact.

Just as the merge process commenced after one hour behind the pace cars, more rain fell over La Sarthe – but again not enough for a tyre change.

Eight hours into the race, Michelle Gatting was sitting in P4.

When the race resumed after a prolonged neutralization, Michelle Gatting chose to stay on slicks despite worsening weather. This decision was pivotal as it allowed her to capitalize on the misfortune of the #92 Manthey Porsche, which had led the LMGT3 class but went off-track at the restart. Gatting maneuvered past Al Harthy and closely followed Jack Hawksworth, positioning herself impressively in second place.

Despite the increasingly heavy rain on the main straight and the initial corners, Gatting displayed exceptional skill, even though those on wet tyres were gaining ground rapidly. When the leading Lexus pitted for wets, Gatting remained committed to her strategy, briefly taking the lead until Richard Lietz’s Manthey Porsche overtook her on lap 105. She was eventually overtaken by Platinum-rated drivers Dennis Olsen and Klaus Bachler, dropping to fourth place. Nonetheless, Gatting maintained a competitive pace, making no errors in the challenging and ever-changing grip conditions.

On lap 108, Gatting made her tenth pit stop, retaining control of the #85 Lamborghini and rejoining the race in eighth place, just behind Marino Sato in the #95 McLaren. Throughout her stint, she climbed back to fifth place and engaged in a battle with the #87 Akkodis Lexus for fourth before the next pit stop cycle.

Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting, Rahel Frey, Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Le Mans 24H 2024
Photo credits: FIA WEC / DPPI

Rahel Frey took over driving duties, re-entering the race in tenth place. Frey quickly targeted Alex Riberas in the Aston Martin, closing in within a second and maintaining pressure. She advanced when Jordan Taylor dropped down as the tenth hour neared. Rahel drove some of the car’s best laps, consistently close to the leaders' pace. She retained ninth place after her second pit stop and advanced to seventh with a strong performance, faster than the cars directly ahead and behind her.

Frey continued for another stint, during which a full course yellow was declared with 12 hours and 46 minutes remaining due to multiple stricken cars. The Iron Dames team opted to pit again, anticipating rain, and switched to wet weather tyres. The rain indeed came down heavily as the race hit its halfway mark.

The worsening conditions led to numerous mistakes among the prototype cars, prompting the race's second safety car deployment. During this neutralization, the Iron Dames pitted for a driver change, with Sarah Bovy starting her second driving stint from sixth place. She would complete the entire triple stint behind the safety car.

The relentless storm in fact created almost undrivable conditions for nearly four hours. Sarah Bovy managed to advance from seventh to fourth place in the LMGT3, as her competitors pitted for driver changes or brake services.

The storm presented numerous challenges, primarily the visibility issues and the difficulty of maintaining concentration at slow speeds. During this period, many teams brought back their bronze-rated drivers to meet their minimum driving time requirements.

At around 6am, morning light began to break through the darkness, but any hope of a restart was quickly dashed by another rain shower. Bovy managed to hold onto her fourth-place position until the Heart of Racing team made a pit stop, which elevated the Iron Dames to third place.

With 8 hours and 33 minutes remaining, Bovy handed the car over to Michelle Gatting as the rain ceased and teams began to anticipate a restart. Nearly four hours later, the race finally began to move again with the pass-around procedure. At this point, the Iron Dames' car, driven by Michelle Gatting, was in eighth place.

Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting, Rahel Frey, Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Le Mans 24H 2024
Photo credits: FIA WEC / DPPI

The race finally restarted for the final eight hours, with Michelle Gatting in the #85 Lamborghini moving up to seventh place as Jack Hawksworth pitted immediately after the green flag waved. Visibility at full speed remained a significant challenge, with lap times over 30 seconds slower than personal bests. Despite these conditions, Gatting had a clean run and gained another position when class leader Klaus Bachler pitted.

Gatting’s lap times were competitive, matching most platinum-rated drivers and consistently outpacing Gelael by a few seconds per lap. She soon caught up to the BMW and engaged in a close battle with Gelael, initially without changing positions. However, Gatting moved ahead when Gelael pitted. She continued her strong performance by overtaking Boguslavskiy and Hamaguchi, climbing to third place by lap 186, just before her own pit stop.

After her stop, Gatting rejoined the race in second place. With the sun finally shining, the track dried quickly, challenging her to manage the wet weather tyres. After trading positions with Hamaguchi, Gatting switched to slicks. Despite some close calls on her out lap with the cold tyres, she maintained her composure and held onto seventh place.

As Gatting moved between fifth and sixth place, a major accident involving the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3, driven by Daniel Mancinelli, led to the deployment of the third safety car. With several LMGT3 cars pitting, Gatting stayed out and took the lead for the first time in the race, with six hours remaining.

Gatting stopped on lap 200, handing over to Rahel Frey, who rejoined in seventh place after a duel-filled triple stint by Gatting.

Once the green flag fell on a fully dry track, Frey quickly overtook Marino Sato’s McLaren at the Dunlop chicane. Sato fought back, but Frey secured fourth place after a slow zone restart.

The battle continued with the United Autosport McLarens, but Frey responded with fast laps, including a new personal best for the team at 4:00.214. She eventually made a decisive move at Indianapolis to claim third as the race entered its final five hours.

All the front-running LMGT3 cars pitted simultaneously, and Frey’s Lamborghini initially fell behind Saucy and Pedersen. Determined, Frey overtook the #59 McLaren, despite being almost forced onto the grass during the maneuver. Once ahead, she logged fast and consistent laps, pulling away from the competitors.

Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting, Rahel Frey, Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Le Mans 24H 2024
Photo credits: FIA WEC / DPPI

When Saucy’s car came to a halt on track, Frey anticipated a Full Course Yellow and pitted. This strategy proved correct as the Full Course Yellow was deployed. After 21 pit stops, Rahel Frey continued behind the wheel of the #85 Iron Dames Huracan, holding fifth place with four hours remaining in the race.

Having emerged from a pitstop in P5, Rahel continued her progression and snatched fourth as the race entered the 21st hour. Morris Schuring led the LMGT3 class in the #81 Manthey Racing Porsche, a little over a second ahead of Augusto Farfus’ Team WRT BMW and the Akkodis Lexus driven by Esteban Masson – who had however received a drive through for causing a contact.

Frey was slightly eating up the gap to Masson, while also defending well from Dennis Olsen, now at the wheel of the #88 Proton Ford Mustang. With a series of superbly consistent laps, Frey obliterated a 14 second margin and caught Masson, jumping ahead for third on lap 229.

Platinum-rated Olsen eventually found a way past, but Rahel kept her cool and pitted from fourth. After a slower stop for new tyres, she ended up behind the Akkodis Lexus in fifth – but soon set the car’s fastest lap in 3:59.764, the first lap under the 4 minute mark for the team, only to top it a few laps later, with a 3:59.584.

The gap to Masson went from 10 seconds to under 4 seconds, before her rival’s pit stop, with three hours to go. She completed a monster quadruple stint in P4, with the fastest and most consistent times and surely having made an impression in her participation at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours.

The driver elected to bring the car home would in fact be Michelle Gatting, who finally had her first fully dry run from the start of the race.

And Gatting delivered her best runs, on a consistent pace of 4m02 seconds, which allowed her to keep fourth from Jack Hawksworth’s Lexus. The latter hit trouble and had to box – and Michelle pulled away. The Iron Dame again improved her benchmark and, with a safe margin, she found her rhythm in the final 2 hours.

When Gatting was in control, the rain made its return over La Sarthe: the conditions worsened significantly in just a couple of laps and Gatting had to change to wets as she also completed her scheduled pit stop. This strategy allowed her to keep fourth – and her pace was soon competitive in the mixed conditions.

The rain eased and then intensified again, setting up the most challenging finale for this legendary race. Gatting ran on par with Pedersen and Mies; at the following stop Michelle fell behind Christopher Mies and thus slotted into P5 – now with one hour left on the clock.

This stage of the race was about managing the gap for Gatting, as she had the fast charging GR Racing Ferrari of Daniel Serra making up ground. Serra, though, hit trouble just at the pit exit and came to a halt. Michelle took the way of the pit lane for one final time one lap later, with 272 laps completed, and re-emerged fifth, behind the two Proton Competition Mustangs. In the final minutes, Michelle was again eating up the margin, but eventually ran out of time to contend for fourth place.

Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting, Rahel Frey, Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Le Mans 24H 2024
Photo credits: Iron Dames

For the second consecutive season, Iron Dames completed the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours in the top five – a truly historic result for the team, who bagged this achievement at their first entry in Lamborghini machinery.

"I think that since we arrived this week, I've been saying that if we finished in the top five, we'd be happy", commented Sarah Bovy. "We know that this is a new category and we've been building up little by little, but we knew that the competition here would be very fast."

"The team did a great job in terms of strategy, car preparation and reliability. Hats off to the team for that", Bovy continued. "We've done nothing but climb up the field and I don't have the disappointment of thinking that we've missed out on something."

"This year was the best we could have hoped for, and we'll have to hopefully come back and try to finish on the podium."

Iron Dames survived changeable weather and difficult strategy calls when the track conditions were neither fully wet nor dry, in a strategy masterclass for the team operated by Iron Lynx. Rahel Frey’s quadruple stint was particularly noteworthy, as she consistently logged fast laps, helping the team maintain a strong position.

Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting, Rahel Frey, Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Le Mans 24H 2024
Photo credits: Iron Dames

"Our sixth participation, our sixth crossing the finish line and a P5 at the flag this year", Gatting commented. "The steps we have made as team, as teammates and together with Lamborghini are extremely big, and I’m beyond happy to be on this journey, hopefully towards the stars."

"Of course we always strive for more, as yet this year we have still not been on the podium in any of our championships and we are eager for it", Michelle added. "But this race we simply didn’t have the pace to be in the top 3. What matters once again is simply that we fought, we made no mistakes, and we crossed the finish line once again for the sixth time in a row."

The Iron Dames’ second consecutive top-five finish at Le Mans was once again was an important on-track result, but the team's efforts to change the sport were very visible on the grandstands as well, with a sea of pink caps and flags supporting this groundbreaking team - which will undoubtedly be back at La Sarthe in the attempt to climb that prestigious podium.

Focus now shifts towards the next racing commitment: in just a few days, in fact, the Dames will head Stateside for the IMSA 6 Hours of the Glen.

Photo credits: FIA WEC / DPPI



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