Iron Dames produce spirited comeback at the Nürburgring
Iron Dames were looking to break their run of bad luck at the Nürburgring, after a pole position in class in wet conditions. A tough opening stint when the #83 Lamborghini was hit and spun around produced a determined comeback, but left the trio without the deserved final result.
Once again displaying excellent speed across the weekend, the Iron Dames were left without the result they deserved at the Nürburgring. After topping bronze class qualifying and showing class-leading pace in all conditions, a tough opening stint of the three-hour GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup race left the trio at the rear of the field.
Nonetheless, Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting and Rahel Frey produced a fantastic comeback to finish 12th in the bronze class in a race which featured no periods of full course yellow nor safety car interventions.
The Iron Dames have shown impressive speed throughout their multiple campaigns during the year and were looking to break their run of bad luck at the Nürburgring. The weekend started superbly in a wet first test session where the trio finished second in the bronze class, with Michelle setting the quickest lap. An eighth place bronze class result in a dry second test session was followed a further top-10 class result in the bronze-only test session with Sarah gaining valuable mileage.
Saturday brought two further dry sessions for the Iron Dames to hone in on a setup ahead of the three hour race to come on Sunday. The first free practice session was a particular highlight with the #85 Lamborghini Huracan topping the bronze class times, placing 11th overall and just seven tenths of a second away from the fastest overall time. Pre-qualifying served as the final track action prior to qualifying and brought a 12th place result in class for Bovy, Gatting and Frey.
Qualifying on Sunday morning was held in extremely wet and treacherous conditions, however the Iron Dames showed excellent speed in similar conditions on Friday which gave them cause for optimism. Rahel drove in the first session and despite a red flag disrupting proceedings, Frey set the fifth fastest time in the bronze class which was also a top-15 result overall.
Sarah also enjoyed the tough conditions in Q2, setting a brilliant lap to hold second overall for the majority of the session, finishing the session as the second fastest driver in the bronze class. Conditions improved slightly for Q3 with Michelle setting the eighth fastest bronze class time, with the Iron Dames consistency leading to them claiming pole position in class while securing a top-15 starting spot overall.
Lining up 14th on the grid with Rahel driving the first stint in dry conditions, misfortune immediately struck as contact from another car on the opening lap relegated the Iron Dames to 15th in the bronze class, 51st overall. Frey was immediately on the charge and displayed the speed which is synonymous with the Swiss driver, gaining seven positions in the next four laps. A second setback of the race came on lap seven when Rahel spun while attempting to overtake the Porsche 911 GT3 of Niki Leutwiler, relegating the #83 Lamborghini Huracan to 15th in class.
Once again, Rahel showed impressive pace in clean air and quickly closed in on her rivals as her stint reached the halfway mark. Making a number of smart overtakes on her fellow bronze class competitors, Frey made her way back into the bronze class top-10 by lap 18 as she overtook fellow Lamborghini driver Leonardo Gorini. As the first stint reached its conclusion, the Iron Dames strategists chose to keep Rahel out on circuit for as long as possible in anticipation of a potential safety car which would prove beneficial in making up lost time.
As Frey handed over to Sarah Bovy and the pit cycle concluded, the Belgian driver remained inside the top-10 in the bronze class, while also moving into the top-40 overall. Bovy re-joined just behind the AF Corse Ferrari of Jef Machiels and began applying pressure to her compatriot. Setting a number of personal best sectors, Sarah cut the gap to less than one second while making inroads on silver rated drivers ahead of her.
On lap 54, Bovy moved past silver cup driver Jop Rappange while remaining in touch with Machiels. As her stint concluded, the Iron Dames driver continued to set personal best lap times, with her quickest effort coming on lap 63 as she prepared to hand over to Michelle Gatting.
A great final stop by the Iron Dames team, coupled with Bovy’s excellent speed to close out the stint, allowed Gatting to re-join the race in eighth, crucially ahead of the AF Corse Ferrari now driven by Andrea Bertolini. Michelle spent the first half of her stint defending superbly, first from Tresor Attempto Racing’s Dylan Pereira and then from CLRT driver Frederic Makowiecki.
A challenging series of laps saw Gatting drop to 13th in the bronze class, but she was determined to push back towards the top-10 as the race reached its conclusion. Moving up to 12th on lap 86, Michelle then set about re-gaining 11th from Bertolini and by pushing right to the line finished less than three tenths of a second behind the AF Corse Ferrari. Finishing 12th in the bronze class and 37th overall was not the result the Iron Dames deserved, however the comeback highlighted the trios fighting spirit and determination to overcome adversity.
"A very disappointing result in the end after starting from pole position", Gatting commented. "Unfortunately, Rahel got spun around at the race start, and there was nothing she could have done there to avoid it. A pure racing incident where we lost a lot of time."
"We fought hard to try and come back", the Danish driver continued. "We keep going together, accumulating as much information and data as possible and gain as much as experience with the car for the future."
Showing brilliant speed in all conditions at the Nürburgring, the Iron Dames should be encouraged by their progress even if the result was not representative of their performance.
Qualifying was a particular highlight in extremely tough conditions, claiming pole position in the bronze class.
"The pace was decent for all of us and we appreciated the car that the team provided, especially in the rain", Rahel Frey explained. "In the end, this weekend is a step in the right direction. We saw the potential of the team, the potential of the car. We have to keep working as a team, to be patient and the result will come."
After Rahel’s superb recovery drive, Sarah’s middle stint was particularly impressive as she competed against predominantly higher rated drivers and held her own before handing over to Michelle who fought hard to maintain her position.
"It was a tough race but the very positive thing is that we are getting more familiar with the car, faster and faster, more on the pace and stronger in the fights", Bovy added. "All in all, and as always, I want to keep the positivity and keep pushing for Barcelona to finish on a high over there. I am looking forward to being back in the car, fighting again and trying to bring back a few more podiums before the end of the season."
The final round of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup takes place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on the weekend of 30th September – 1st October.