Iron Dames to start from P3 in ELMS season opener, Floersch hampered by red flag
A strong run for Sarah Bovy put Iron Dames to third place in the LMGTE qualifying, while Sophia Floersch's superb practice pace couldn't translate into a higher starting position due to a late red flag that prevented the Algarve Pro Racing's drivers to compete their lap on new tyres.
The first qualifying of the 2022 European Le Mans Series was an encouraging yet bittersweet one for female drivers, as Sophia Floersch will start from 10th on the grid in LMP2 and Iron Dames will take the start from third among the LMGTE field.
At Le Castellet, South of France, the continental top’s sports car championship could have seen the first Iron Dames pole position as Sarah Bovy was in contention to put the bright pink Ferrari 488 GTE clear of the competition after topping the Bronze-rated session on Friday.
With ELMS moving towards a bronze-only qualifying session, Bovy was again on top of her game and led the early minutes, before pitting for new tyres with 3 minutes left on the clock.
Meanwhile, Memo Gidley set the new benchmark, with also Ahmad Al Harty – second yesterday in the bronze-test – and Christian Ried improving their times. Bovy, demoted to eighth, was on a potentially pole-earning lap when the chequered flag fell; the Belgian set the fastest sector 1 and 2, but her effort wasn’t fast enough in sector 2 to claim Iron Dames’ first pole position and the talented three ladies will take the start from third place.
LMGTE pole went to Memo Gidley and rookie team Rinaldi Racing, followed by the Oman Racing’s Aston Martin of Al Harty. The two Proton Competition Porsches of Ried and Fassbender slotted in fourth and fifth, while Iron Lynx’s second car – the yellow liveried #60 Ferrari driven by Claudio Schiavoni was 11th fastest.
There were high hopes also for Sophia Floersch, as the young German signed a stellar fourth overall on Saturday morning in the second free practice.
Floersch is returning to ELMS after a season in FIA WEC, having joined Algarve Pro Racing after a one-off in 2021 that brought her to the top step of the podium in a history-making result.
The LMP2 class was once again highly competitive as several teams had a chance at the top spot. TDS Racing x Vaillante claimed a surprise pole with Swiss-French racer Mathias Beche when a red flag ended the session in its final minutes – preventing a few cars from completing their final run on new tyres. Among them was Sophia Floersch’s new teammate Bent Viscaal, who was making his sports car debut at the wheel of the #19 Oreca Gibson.
Viscaal and Floersch had arguably pace to qualify within the top-five, but will have to enter tomorrow’s 4 Hours of Le Castellet from tenth on the grid.
“Little bit unlucky in Quali today with a red flag, but got a 4h race coming up tomorrow, so anything is possible”, wrote Floersch. “We are definitely in mode push tomorrow”.
The red flag was brought out by the Graff Racing Oreca of David Droux, who came to a halt on track.
United Autosports will start from second with its #22 Oreca (Tom Gamble) and Prema Racing – at its ELMS debut – was third fastest with Louis Deletraz. Jack Aitken’s Racing Team Turkey was also hampered by the stoppage, as well as the #37 Cool Racing and the second Algarve Pro car driven by James Allen.
With four hours of racing ahead, Iron Dames and Sophia Floersch can aim high for the first ELMS round of the season, having shown speed in practice.
The race goes green on Sunday at 11:00am local time.