Iron Dames on the PRO class podium at Lamborghini debut
At their first official outing in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo, Iron Dames had impressive runs to P3 and P2 in the PRO class with young stars Doriane Pin and Michelle Gatting making their debut in the #83 Huracan Super Trofeo EVO2.
Just one week after the Ferrari World Finals in Imola, the groundbreaking Iron Dames project announced a wild-card entry for the Lamborghini Grand Finals in Portimao, Portugal, in the team's first move towards a new exciting chapter.
While for the all-female crew it was the very first race weekend not in Ferrari machinery, it was a return to its origins for Iron Lynx, as the Italian team had started its adventure in motorsport in 2018 in the Lamborghini one-make series.
On the other hand, for its young stars Doriane Pin and Michelle Gatting, it would be a big test: a whole different car in a new series, after a historic season filled with race wins and podiums in GTE and GT3 Ferrari 488 machines.
Pin and Gatting, though, were certainly not scared of the new challenge and were immediately around the top-three in practice, on the track where they made history less than a month ago, when they claimed the team's first ELMS win.
In a 42-car field, Michelle Gatting couldn't find a clean lap in qualifying - yet claimed a top five in Q1. Doriane Pin got behind the wheel of the gorgeous #83 pink Huracán Super Trofeo EVO2 in Q2 - and delivered a jaw-dropping performance, setting pole position at her first outing. The 18 year-old Frenchwoman became the first female pole winner in the history of the series.
Already European series champion, Italian Loris Spinelli set pole position in Q1, ahead of Edoardo Liberati, Amaury Bonduel and Lewis Williamson. After an overnight rain, the track was extremely tricky at 08:30 AM, when the first race of the day was scheduled.
This led some drivers to start on slicks - namely, pole sitter Spinelli - and others on wets.
A false start forced a red flag when drivers accelerated away after one of the two planned formation laps. Second time's a charm and Bonduel took the lead in Turn 1, having started on wets, followed by Karol Basz and Edorardo Liberati. On the slick compound, Loris Spinelli dropped to to the tail end of the pack after a very tricky first lap.
Michelle Gatting had to take the outside line at the first corner and completed the first lap in eighth position.
After setting a fastest lap, Williamson found a way past Basz on the second lap for P2; he continued to improve his own lap times and quickly caught up with Bonduel as well. On lap 6, the two engaged in a side-by-side battle which ultimately saw the Briton making a move stick for the lead of the race.
Michelle Gatting made the most out of her experience in multi-class racing and was able to gain time on Dan Wells as they navigated traffic of the first lapped cars. The Iron Dame attacked Wells soon after, passing the driver of the #51 Lamborghini on lap 9.
The pit window opened with 30 minutes left on the clock, but the leaders stayed out - extending the first stint after the red flag.
The track was visibly drying up and drivers looked for the wet spots; Stephane Tribaudini's tyres then gave up and the French driver stopped on track. Anticipating a caution, Iron Dames' Michelle Gatting pitted and handed over to Doriane Pin with 22 minutes to go. The leaders of the race pitted one lap later, as teams switched to slick tyres.
While the race remained green, Amaury Bonduel found himself in the lead after the pit stops, preceding Bronek Formanek, Massimo Ciglia and Martin Ryba. With a fast outlap, though, Doriane Pin was up to fifth place.
The unstoppable Pin - already 2022 Ferrari Challenge Europe champion - passed Ryba for fourth place on lap 16, then chased Ciglia for a podium position at Iron Dames' first outing in Lamborghini machinery.
Doriane Pin continued her recovery and, with three minutes to go, overtook Massimo Ciglia - as the latter lost out also to Milan Teekens - bringing the #83 pink Huracan EVO2 to third place. Less than a lap later, Pin was up to second when Formanek spun and dropped to fifth.
Pin defended from Teekens on the final lap, with the Dutchman making a move stick after going wide in the runoff; Doriane unfortunately would cross the finish line in P5 after a spin in the final corners as she tried to fight back.
Amaury Bonduel took a dominant win, ahead of Milan Teekens and Massimo Ciglia.
At their first race in the series, Doriane Pin and Michelle Gatting stepped on the podium in the PRO class.
Having made history on Thursday, Doriane Pin lined up on pole position for the second race of the European series, alongside Milan Teekens, with whom she had traded positions in race 1 in the morning.
The young Iron Dame held the lead at the start into the first corner, while Australian Brendon Leitch made a move for second at Turn 2.
A safety car soon halted the action before the cars had crossed the line for the second lap, as Marc Rostan and Luciano Privitelio made contact at turn 5. Daniel Waszczinscki was also an early retirement, as the #12 Boutsen Racing Huracan got stuck in the gravel.
The green flag waved back with 37 minutes to go and Pin stretched her lead over Leitch.
A contact between Stepane Lemeret and Max Weering at Turn 10 resulted in the former stranded in the gravel trap. Weering would receive a 10 second penalty for the contact.
Doriane Pin set another fastest lap and tried to open a bigger gap as the teams got ready for the pit window.
Doriane dived into the pit lane with 20 minutes left on the clock, handing over to Michelle Gatting with an over 3 second gap. After the stops, Loris Spinelli had made it into the lead - but had to pull a 10 second gap to Gatting, having received a penalty for Weering's previous contact.
As the race approached its final 10 minutes, several cars were put under the steward's scrutiny for shorter pit stop times; among them, most of the top five - including the leading Bonaldi Racing and Iron Dames crews; the #83 Huracan would receive a 1.7 second penalty, while Spinelli would have to serve a further half a second.
Loris Spinelli, though, managed to extend his gap to almost 20 seconds, therefore claiming victory despite the penalty applied. With second place, Doriane Pin and Michelle Gatting were on the overall podium - marking a new record for female drivers in the history of the European series.
Amaury Bonduel found a way past his compatriot Stephane Tribaudini in the second stint to claim third.
With two class podiums in the PRO category and an overall second place, Iron Dames proved that the pace and performance they showed in the previous four years could be carried onto new platforms in new machinery - not something to be taken for granted, which leaves the fans of the most revolutionary all-female programme in motor racing with high hopes for the future.
The focus will now shift to the Pro class Grand Finals, which will get underway on Saturday at 16:05 and on Sunday at 14:50 local time.