Iron Dames complete first Lamborghini ST weekend with Grand Finals
A pole position, two podiums, big battles, drama - the Iron Dames' first ever weekend with Lamborghini had it all, and despite some misfortune in the Grand Finals, the all-female squad showed quick adaptation to the new car ahead of its new era.
It has been a big weekend for Iron Dames at Circuito do Algarve, Portugal, where the Italian squad entered for the first time a race weekend in Lamborghini machinery and announced a manufacturer partnership from 2023 onwards, revealing plans to expand its program in North America in 2023 with the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup.
At the Lamborghini Grand Finals - that feature the world's top Super Trofeo teams and drivers battling out for the world title - Iron Dames entered a wild card in the PRO class for the #83 pink Huracan, driven by young stars Doriane Pin and Michelle Gatting.
On Thursday, an outstanding qualifying effort for Pin resulted in a historic pole position at debut for the final round of the European season.
With two equally remarkable runs on Friday, Pin and Gatting claimed two class podiums - a third in PRO in race 1, followed by a second place overall in race 2.
From eighth on the grid, Gatting had recovered to fifth on a wet track before the driver change; Pin quickly made her way further up to slot into second place, but a last-lap battle dropped her to third in class in the very final corners.
Later in the day, Pin held the lead throughout the stint until the pit stop, when Gatting rejoined in second place behind championship dominator Loris Spinelli. The result gained Iron Dames their first overall podium in the series, at their first participation.
With the European championship wrapped up, the focus switched to the Grand Finals. Doriane Pin contested Q1 and was sixth fastest, while Gatting took over in Q2. The Dane held the first row for most of the session, before finishing third fastest - but amidst an avalanche of track limits, the best laps from both sessions were deleted, leaving Pin in P22 and Gatting in P8 for the two finals.
GRAND FINALS - Race 1
Nelson Piquet Jr claimed a double pole position for both races, one day after becoming North American champion. Piquet edged European champion Loris Spinelli by only 12 thousands of a second. Third in the session, Patrick Kujala was also demoted to last for track limits.
Nelson Piquet held first place ahead of Karol Basz at the start, following a brilliant double pass at Turn 1 by the Polish driver, who would be overtaken by Spinelli soon later. Spinelli then hunted down Piquet for the lead, in a brilliant battle for the top spot. When the #87 of Jean Francois Brunot stopped on track, the SC was deployed. The Iron Dames entry had moved up to P21, but Doriane Pin pitted and retired the #83 Huracan with 38 minutes to go. On the opening lap, she was involved in a contact with the #101 of Danny Formal, who then picked up a puncture. The race resumed with 30 minutes to go, just as the pit window approached. Many drivers received track limit penalties - including third-placed and ProAm leader Karol Basz. After the pit stops, Nelson Piquet found himself in traffic, allowing Loris Spinelli and Max Weering to retain the lead, ahead of Milan Teekens. Teekens tried to close the gap on his compatriot Weering, but also had to watch his mirrors from the fast charging Nelson Piquet. Weering kept his cool and won the first race of the Grand Finals, as Nelson Piquet took second when Teekens/Moretti were handed a 5 second penalty. Bryan Ortiz and Sebastian Carazo secured ProAm win, ahead of Daniel Pedrosa/Antonin Borga.
GRAND FINALS - RACE 2
The final day of racing at a sunny Autodromo do Algarve saw another tightly fought race for the world title in the Lamborghini one-make series. Piquet shared the front row with Kujala, followed by Marcelli and Bonduel. In fifth overall, Leitch led the ProAm pack.
The Danish Iron Dames star Michelle Gatting took the start from the fourth row of the grid, after her 1:43.613 lap was deleted.
At lights out, Piquet had a great start and cleared the field, while Kujala and Marcelli fought for second in a side-by-side battle at the tricky downhill Turn 1. Michelle Gatting initially held eighth place - but she was then hit at Turn 5 by Lean-Luc D'Auria one lap later. Despite losing a few places, she could rejoin in P9. D'Auria was then given a 5 second penalty for the incident.
Piquet built a gap on Kujala, as the latter still had to keep Kyle Marcelli behind.
Gatting attacked Billy Johnson but, despite the faster pace, she struggled to find a way past the American - as she was also trailed by Dario Capitanio and Patrick Liddy. Michelle eventually pitted at the 30 minute mark in order to get away from traffic, and Doriane Pin took over for the second stint.
After the round of pit stops, Nelson Piquet held a comfortable lead over Danny Formal and Maurizio Moretti, while Patrick Kujala was down to fourth place. Doriane Pin's #83 Iron Dames Huracan, on the other hand, had cleared a few cars and was running sixth, when she was hit by Giano Taurino and dropped to eighth. There was more trouble for Iron Dames, as they would receive a 5 second penalty for track limits. A few laps later, also Taurino was handed a 5 second penalty for abusing track limits.
The same fate awaited also Brendon Leitch and Gerhard Watzinger, leaders in ProAm, who were then passed by John Dubets for first position in class.
Ahead, Danny Formal closed the gap to Piquet and, with 5 minutes left on the clock, prepared a move for the win; the Wayne Taylor Racing's driver, though, was never close enough to attempt a move on the Brazilian.
Pin gained sixth place back with a decisive move at Turn 5 on Giano Taurino - but the stewards deemed her at fault and handed the young Frenchwoman further 5 seconds for causing a collision.
After 50 minute of intense racing, Nelson Piquet Jr took victory from Formal/Marcelli and Moretti/Teekens - also securing the World Title. Spinelli/Weering finished fourth, while Patrick Kujala rounded out the top five. After penalties were applied, Doriane Pin and Michelle Gatting were classified in seventh position, in an overall very positive Lamborghini debut for the all-female crew.
After a few unfortunate contacts in the two Grand Final races, Pin and Gatting couldn't capitalize on their pace, but the debut weekend of the all-female squad on the Lamborghini platform was once again nothing short of impressive.
The very first step of the switch from Ferrari to Lamborghini was smoother than some would have anticipated, proving that Iron Dames will again be at the top end of the field in the next chapter of their journey.
But first, Iron Dames will aim to end an era on a high: next up will in fact be the FIA WEC finale in Bahrain on November 12th, before the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, first round of the IMSA season, on January 28th.