Iron Dames complete ground-braking ELMS campaign in bitter Portimao round
It was an unlucky season ending for Iron Dames in the ELMS final round, but the all-female trio wrote an important page of motorsport history in this 2019.
The all-female trio composed of Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting and Manuela Gostner entered the last ELMS round at Portimao, Portugal, with the clear aim to become LMGTE vice-champions, after a remarkable 2019 European Le Mans Series season.
The Autodromo Internacional do Algarve could have been indeed the perfect backdrop for an amazing season ending: everyone was already tasting one more impressive result for the all-women crew, but the inherent nature of motorsport had a different plan in mind: misfortune was just around the corner and the Iron Dames were forced to an early end to their notable season at the very beginning of the final round.
It was all over right after the start for the #83 Kessel Racing crew: at the opening lap, Italian Manuela Gostner was faultlessly caught in the middle of a scary crash that involved seven cars. The red flag was deployed and the race suffered an-hour long stop before the green flag was waved again onto the Portuguese racetrack.
Both the #77 Dempsey Proton Racing and #66 JMW Motorsport, up until that point still in contention to become LMGTE vice-champions, were involved in the first lap accident.
The #83 Kessel Racing Ferrari limped back to the pits with severe damages to its front end and could not take further part in the race at the restart.
Manuela Gostner got out of the car with the tears in her eyes, aware of the fact that she simply had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, with no real opportunity to avoid the incident.
The hug between all teams members into the garage proved once again the amazing teamwork that so often goes unnoticed behind the scenes and how everyone's work was vital during this season: a team composed by talented professionals, but above all by fantastic people.
When the race finally restarted, all the eyes were on the sister Kessel car, the Iron Lynx team formed by Italian Andrea Piccini and Sergio Pianezzola and by the South African driver David Perel.
The #60 car started the Portimao round from P3 on the grid after some outstanding performance by Andrea Piccini during Saturday's qualifying session.
Sergio Pianezzola took control of the car in the first stint and he drove for the most part in first LMGTE class position until he left the leadership to the already-crowned 2019 LMGTE champions Luzich Racing Ferrari team.
David Perel managed to complete a solid second stint in P2, while Andrea Piccini took the wheel of the Kessel Ferrari in the final hour, inheriting the third place after having to surrender P2 during the last driver-change pitstop.
The Luzich Team gained a reassuring advantage over its rivals, but the fight for the other podium spots was still very much alive: Andrea Piccini reduced the six seconds gap to the #55 Spirit of Race team and moved up to second with almost 30 minutes left on the clock.
The Iron Lynx team ended a very positive weekend claiming second place in the LMGTE class, followed by the Spirit of Race team in third.
2019 will certainly stay in motorsport history books for female racing drivers. Among the notable achievements, one of its most relevant pages was written by the Gostner-Frey-Gatting line up, as the all-female crew took the start of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans and, at the same time, was a constant presence at the high-end of the standings of a full European Le Mans Series campaign. It was the first time in the history of motorsport, and it happened thanks to a project named Iron Dames.
The Iron Dames conquered two seconds place finishes at Le Castellet and Silverstone, finished fourth in Barcelona and Spa-Francorchamps, and were sixth in Monza.
" IF YOU LOVE RACING, you have to accept every part of it, even a crash when it's not your fault.
IF YOU LOVE RACING, you know you must never give up, even in hard moment.
IF YOU LOVE RACING, you have to stay with us, because racing spirit always revives."
The Iron Dames
Ph credits: ELMS Media