Kessel Racing’s “Iron Dames” finsihed an action-packed 4 Hours of Silverstone in second place, as Gatting-Gostner-Frey brought home another podium
Last weekend an exciting fourth round of the European Le Mans Series went underway in Silverstone, UK. In the big World Endurance Championship weekend, the ELMS 4 Hours race took the start under the typical British huge clouds and menacing weather forecasts.
It wasn’t the perfect of qualifying for the all-female trio of Michelle Gatting, Manuela Gostner and Rahel Frey, who qualified 6th in the GTE class.
Dane Michelle Gatting was the first to complete her driving duties and was immediately and brilliantly able to take P2 from the #88 Porsche driven by Giraudi, while the sister Kessel car of Pianezzola led the way.
The predicted rain duly arrived and most of the field pitted, while in front several teams gambled and stayed out on slicks, hoping for the shower to pass quickly.
The changing weather was the perfect recipe for an action-packed and incident-filled race: after a couple of Full Course Yellows, it was a Kessel Racing 1-2 in GTE class, with Michelle 15 seconds behind Pianezzola.
Drivers changes led to several positions swaps for the top LMP2 standings, with James Allen in the Dragon Speed regaining the first spot after leading early in the race.
When everyone went for the wet weather tyres, Gatting clinched the lead. As the sky opened up and teams dived back again in the pitlane, Michelle found herself more than 10 seconds behind the other Kessel Racing Ferrari driven by Pianezzola.
Nicklas Nielsen in the #51 Luzich Ferrari closed in on Gostner and passed the Italian in an opportunistic move as he took advantage of an LMP2 car lapping Manuela at the Loop.
More Safety Car periods followed, as Mike Guasch and Timothe Buret collided, the American ending his race with a big crash against the wall at Becketts. United Autosport reported an initial suspected broken rib for Guasch, but he was later released from hospital the same night, thankfully avoiding serious injuries.
More twists shook the lead when Hirschi was handed a penatly and Jean Eric Vergne thus inherited the first place.
In the LMP3, Nigel Moore (brother of W-Series racer Sarah Moore) took the wheel of the Inter Europol Competition Ligier and started to lap almost 5 seconds per lap quicker than the first-placed EuroInternational Ligier, with the Brit having to gain one full lap. When the leader received a penalty for ignoring a black and orange flag, Moore advanced to P1 after a remarkable stint.
In GTE, bad Safety Car timing costed the lead to the #60 Kessel, but the race neutralization meant that Rahel Frey was able to close in on her competitors and the Swiss retook the lead over the Proton Porsche. Unfortunately, a faster Thomas Preining closed the 10 seconds gap again in the final stages and passed Rahel at Stowe, as the talented lady had to surrender the first place.
With 30 minutes left on the clock, more drama resulted in both the Dragon Speed and the G-Drive having to pit for fuel, leaving the overall leadership to the IDEC Sport Oreca.
In the LMP3 class, the winning Ligier brought to the chequered flag by Moore, received a penalty for not respecting driving times and demoting them to second again.
The #88 Porsche Proton crossed the line in first GTE class position, with the “Iron Dames” line-up of Michelle Gatting, Manuela Gostner and Rahel Frey taking a notable second place. It is the second P2 and seasonal podium for the all-female crew, which now stands third in the ELMS championship standings, draw on points with the Proton Porsche team.
“We walk away from Silverstone with mixed feelings: being proud and sad at the same time” – said Rahel Frey. “While we scored a second place once again and collected super important points for the championship, the ELMS paddock was deeply touched by the tragedy in Spa. The motorsport family lost a beloved member”.
“We finally got our podium position again, with a different strategy and some changing weather that played in our favor.” – commented Gatting via her social media. “A second place to be proud of, as the Porsche is generally too fast. Manuela ran a nice steady stint and Rahel drove the car to the finish line in second place, keeping some fast cars behind her. But unfortunately the day was overshadowed by the tragedy at Spa in Formula 2.”
Gostner added: “An amazing P2 at the ELMS 4 Hours of Silverstone. However, it was above all a very sad day in Motorsport and our hearts are really weighted down. Our thoughts are all dedicated to Anthoine Hubert’s family and friends.”
Next ELMS race will be the 4 Hours of Spa Francorchamps on September 22nd, which will be the penultime round of a successful 2019 campaign for the “Iron Dames” project.
In Rahel's words:
“We walk away from Silverstone with mixed feelings: being proud and sad at the same time”
Ph credits: Kessel Racing