Iron Dames qualify for Super Pole at 24H of Spa
In a dramatic night qualifying at Spa in changing weather conditions, Doriane Pin, Rahel Frey, Sarah Bovy and Michelle Gatting claimed fourth overall and third in Bronze Cup - thus securing a spot in tomorrow's Super Pole and becoming the first all-female team to do so.
In a dramatic night qualifying at Spa Francorchamps, Iron Dames emerged in fourth place overall and third in Bronze Cup in the combined classification, which takes into account all four sessions. The result is by far the team's best result in GT World Challenge Europe, as well as a first ever qualification for an all-female crew in Super Pole.
Doriane Pin, Rahel Frey, Sarah Bovy and Michelle Gatting - who won in the Gold Cup last year's editions - therefore continue to make history at the 24 Hours of Spa and will take part in tomorrow's Super Pole, which will see the top-20 overall battling for pole position.
In a highly-disrupted Pre-Qualifying session - interrupted by three red flags - Iron Dames were 17th fastest in class; with consistency being their strength, though, a top-10 was a realistic goal. The constantly-changing weather conditions. though, overturned every prediction and the four drivers found themselves battling at the top throughout the four 15 minute sessions.
Doriane Pin was at the wheel of the #83 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2 for Q1 and the Frenchwoman was quickly out on track, clocking a 2:19.199 that put her second in Bronze Cup and fifth overall - just before a rain shower arrived over the 7.004 km track in the Belgian Ardennes. The session was stopped with 7 minutes to go for the accident of #216 Modena Motorsports Porsche at Raidillon. When the action resumed, the rain had intensified and nobody could demote Pin from her position, in a session that would prove crucial for the whole qualifying.
Also in Q1, Lilou Wadoux had taken the reins of the #52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3, for her SRO debut. Wadoux - the first ever female Ferrari GT factory driver - became the first woman to win a race in FIA WEC earlier this year at the same track, during the 6H of Spa, and is coming off her IMSA debut, at last weekend's Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen.
Just like her compatriot Pin, Wadoux perfectly timed her first laps and was immediately among the pace setters; she finished the first session in third place among the Bronze Cup entries, sixth overall.
On the other hand, Theeba Motorsport's driver/owner Reema Juffali couldn't set a representative lap time before the weather conditions worsened and she was left in P35 overall, P17 in Bronze Cup with a 2:39.346.
In the driving seat of the #38 ST Racing by Rinaldi Ferrari - and at her debut with the new 296 GT3 having run the 488 GT3 at Monza and Paul Ricard - Samantha Tan managed to get a good lap in despite the difficult conditions and was fourth in the ProAm class.
Rahel Frey was at the wheel of the bright pink Lamborghini for Q2 - which started on a wet track wet but then - in truly Belgian fashion - quickly dried up. On the slick tyre as the track improved, Theeba Motorsport's Ralf Aron was the driver to beat and set the pace as times started to drop. The conditions improved by the second and Rahel Frey also got in the rhythm, slotting in the top three in Bronze.
Frey would move up to second - but positions changed constantly and she unfortunately was among the first drivers to take the chequered flag - resulting in several drivers improving on the final lap on a better track. Still Frey was sixth fastest in class in Q2, with a best lap of 2:24.568.
Ralf Aron was back in P3 in class on the final attempt and retained the overall top 10 for Theeba Motorsport - his 2:21.763 becoming the team's new benchmark.
Louis Machiels was P15 in Bronze Cup for the #52 Ferrari that he shares with Lilou Wadoux.
In another very positive session for ST Racing by Rinaldi, Jon Miller was second fastest in ProAm - albeit he couldn't top Samantha's lap from Q1.
The weather continued to play a major role in Q3 - as the rain returned just as the cars were taking to the track for the third 15 minute session. And it was a proper downpour this time: in extremely challenging conditions, Sarah Bovy drove brilliantly and was fourth in class after the first half of the session; the home hero would finish eighth in Bronze.
Yannick Mettler - who joined Theeba Motorsport as the Saudi team's fourth driver for the flagship event of the calendar - was eleventh in class, five positions ahead of Jef Machiels in the #52 AF Corse Ferrari.
At the wheel of the #38 ST Racing Ferrari, bronze-rated Isaac Tutumlu Lopez had a strong session and put the 296 GT3 of the Canadian squad in fifth place among the ProAm entries.
Heavy rain continued to fall heavier and heavier as the lights went green for the final 15 minutes of the Q4. Michelle Gatting was the driver elected to bring the Iron Dames through this crucial stage of qualifying: the Danish driver was flawless and went third quickest with five minutes to go - having set a 2:36.822 amidst extreme conditions.
A red flag with 1 minute and 40 minutes to go put an early end to the session: Gatting held third in Bronze Cup and was 18th overall - an outstanding result that put the Iron Dames in fourth place in the combined results and qualifies the all-female quartet for the Super Pole.
Alain Valente had a good run to P13 in class in the Theeba Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3, which therefore completed the combined results in 16th position, after a costly Q1.
Highly experienced Ferrari driver Andrea Bertolini had to settle for P14 in class and P49 overall in the #52 AF Corse Ferrari in Q4; Lilou Wadoux's team, strong of her performance in Q1, was P11 in Bronze Cup in the combined classification, but missed the qualification in the Super Pole.
Having joined ST Racing for the first time, Leonard Weiss - who usually competes in the Rinaldi Racing LMP3 effort in Le Mans Cup - set a 2:42.828 which gained him fifth in ProAm.
While Samantha Tan remained her team's fastest driver, the team was fourth in class in the average times, in what will be a highly promising starting position for ST Racing.
The #911 Pure Rxcing Porsche remained on top of both the Bronze and overall classification, ahead of the #5 Gold Cup Optimum Motorsport McLaren, the #20 Huber Motorsport Porsche and the #83 Iron Dames Lamborghini. The top-20 out of the 70 car field will in fact contest the Super Pole session tomorrow at 15:35 local time, ahead of Saturday's start of the world's top GT3 race on the planet.