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Iron Dames top best IMSA result with flawless run at Daytona 24H

"To start the season on a high is important as it gives us extra motivation for the upcoming races." - Iron Dames came home as the top Lamborghini and not far from a top five in the proving 24 Hours of Daytona, marking a significant step up and by far their best IMSA performance.

Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey, Doriane Pin, Iron Dames, 2023 Daytona 24H, IMSA
Photo credits: Iron Lynx

Iron Dames started the 2024 racing season with one of their strongest performances to date - and by far their best result in IMSA - with a flawless run at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona that saw the #83 Lamborghini Huracan moving up from P13 to P6, finishing close to the top five and on the lead lap after one of the most demanding races in endurance.

The quartet ran for most of the race around the top ten in the extremely competitive GTD category, and made strides in the second half of the race as all four drivers were consistently among the fastest in class, making up positions and eventually getting back one lap in the final hour. This result represents a significant step forward compared to last year's edition of the race - which was also Iron Dames' first ever appearance in the uber-competitive IMSA SportsCar Championship.

"Sarah, Rahel, Michelle and Doriane all make me feel proud today", commented Deborah Mayer, Iron Dames project founder. "They showed not only strong driving, but also physical and mental strength in a very tough 24-hour race in difficult conditions."

"That is what Iron Dames project is about – always improving, never giving up and striving for excellence", Mayer continued, also pleased about the growing interest and popularity for the groundbreaking team that has made motorsport history since its inception and conquered iconic victories at the 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps, ELMS and WEC.

Last year's running of the 24 Hours of Daytona turned out to be a character building race for Iron Dames, who battled to get to the finish line after a series of technical issues.

An impeccable performance from the whole team, great strategy calls and superb stints by all its drivers, clearly signal a monumental step forward ahead of their busy racing schedule that includes IMSA Endurance Cup, WEC and ELMS.

Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting were joined by Doriane Pin, after the latter had travelled from Abu Dhabi following the second round of the F4 UAE championship last weekend. Pin, now a Mercedes junior driver, was back in a GT3 car after committing to a Formula 4 program in F1 Academy - but she quickly readapted and was again on top of her game.

The team had worked on the car last week during the ROAR Before the 24, as they built speed over the testing sessions; Michelle Gatting qualified the car last Sunday and put the pink Huracan in P13 in class, having recorded a 1:45.180 lap - barely six tenths away from class pole position in an extremely tight session.

Progress continued in the official practice sessions, and all four drivers were looking forward to returning to the track after their historic victory at the 8 Hours of Bahrain in December.

Michelle Gatting, Iron Dames, with a young fan. 2024 Daytona 24 Hours, IMSA
Photo credits: Iron Lynx

The story of the race

While most teams lined up at the start their qualifying driver, Iron Dames opted to start with Rahel Frey - who had also tackled the start last year. Rahel had a clean getaway and battled around P12 and P13 in the first laps of the race, before a first Full Course Yellow was deployed on lap 14, after the #78 Forte Lamborghini hit the tyre barriers at the Le Mans chicane. Frey had just passed the #45 Lamborghini of Kyle Marcelli.

Almost the entirety of the GTD field pitted on lap 19; under yellow, Rahel Frey remained behind the wheel; after the stop, the Iron Dames Huracan had made up several places, climbing to ninth. At the restart, a double accident involving LMP2 cars brought out the safety car once again, as the race entered its first hour. Frey avoided the carnage and settled in P9 - then overtook the #55 Proton Ford at the restart and moved up to eighth.

As the second hour approached, Rahel pitted on lap 52 and it was now Doriane Pin's time to shine. Having gone off sequence at the previous caution, Iron Dames pitted at the three hour mark and Sarah Bovy took over from Doriane, who had battled with Sheena Monk for most of her stint, in a duel that saw several position changes.

Bovy had a great start to her stint and was fast enough to attack and pass Thomas Preining's #43 Porsche. The night fell over the scenic Daytona International Speedway and racing resumed at the fifth hour mark after another caution - although half a lap later a short yellow was back out for debris. Sarah Bovy resumed her duel with Preining and kept her cool, fighting in the middle of the huge GTD pack in P14. The fast Belgian further improved to P12 - having also gained a few spots from cars receiving penalties for improper pass-arounds.

Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey, Doriane Pin, Iron Dames, 2023 Daytona 24H, IMSA
Photo credits: LAT Images / Jake Galstad

After 6 hours of racing, Michelle Gatting started her first stint in the race, taking over from P15. Michelle soon gained a position, and now had 10 seconds to close to the car ahead.

Gatting had good pace and set the car's best lap until that point; tenth after tenth, she caught Potter and passed him on lap 190, moving into P12. Her recovery was interrupted by a full course yellow.

Everyone used the caution to pit and Michelle was faster than a group of GTD-Pro cars - but would have to battle with the #120 Wright Motorsports Porsche and the #70 Inception McLaren, running on top-five pace. Eventually, Gatting brought the Iron Dames pink Huracan back in the top ten with a stellar stint, before Rahel Frey was back in charge with 16 hours to go.

Following another restart, Frey was involved in a contact on lap 250: when the #20 High Class Racing LMP2 Oreca spun at turn 2, Rahel locked up in avoidance and she was hit by another car who spun the Iron Dames Lamborghini around. Rahel was quick to avoid the other incoming cars and could rejoin, albeit down to P15.

Nevertheless, Frey was back up to speed and was trying to close the 1 minute gap lost in the incident. She managed to grab P13 before it was Doriane Pin's turn behind the wheel.

Pin caught Yoluc and battled with the Lone Star Racing Mercedes for P12, in an uninterrupted hour. Doriane got past Yoluc and then handed over to Sarah Bovy with 13 hours and 30 minutes to go.

Sarah passed the #43 Andretti Porsche for P13 - and claimed P12 after another extremely solid stint. Now again on the doorsteps of the GTD top-ten, Bovy picked up tenth following a drive through for the #96 Turner BMW and then pitted for her driver change to Michelle Gatting. Unfortunately, the pit allocation meant that Bovy had to avoid the restarting JDC Miller Porsche GTP, which resulted in a slower stop. Gatting, though, had a fast start to her stint and the Dane gained a couple of seconds before the next caution.

Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey, Doriane Pin, Iron Dames, 2023 Daytona 24H, IMSA
Photo credits: LAT Images / Micheal L Levitt

With a smart strategy, Gatting gained back a lap and moved up to P9; with 13 hours now in the books, the Iron Dames Huracan was now less than 10 seconds to the class lead. 

Rahel Frey took over on lap 419; the Swiss ace improved the team's best and had a very solid run, improving her sector times and passing the #65 Pro BMW of Joey Hand first and the Cetilar Racing Ferrari of Lacorte for class position.

In what was Iron Dames' best stint of the race until that point, Frey closed in significantly before Doriane Pin returned at the wheel. The young Frenchwoman continued the good trend, as the car had really come alive; having cleared the #12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus, Pin settled in P7. She cycled up to fourth - before the team pitted at the right time just before a full course yellow for the accident of the #99 AO Racing LMP2. Predicting a caution, Sarah Bovy was in and rejoined eighth.

When the pit opened, Iron Dames opted to pit again for a brake change - and unfortunately the car went one lap down at the restart. Bovy's first timed laps were outstanding and set the team's new benchmark in 1:46.951. Sarah's impressive run continued with strong pace and yet another gained position when Mikael Grenier was handed a drive through. Having run as high as fifth, Bovy completed her epic stint and then passed the baton to Michelle Gatting.

Michelle also ran competitively, with consistent laps in ninth place. She managed traffic of the battling LMP2 leaders, before gaining a place to the #96 BMW that hit trouble. The sun had now risen and the typical golden hour offered scenic glimpses of the famous racetrack - as well as the perfect conditions for fast laps. Michelle cycled from third to eighth; next up would be Rahel Frey again. 

At this point in the race, with the sun shining again, higher temperatures were more challenging but Rahel kept her cool and held position. In these final hours, the crucial point was keeping it clean and mistake-free - and it was exactly what Iron Dames did; when the #33 LMP2 Ligier lost the engine cover with 4 hours and 50 minutes to go, Doriane Pin jumped in. At the restart, Doriane set her personal best and managed to stay with the pack - although Iron Dames still needed to make up one lap to return in contention.

The young French star set a purple sector and continued to push in order to catch the class leaders and unlap herself. With a jaw-dropping stint, Doriane caught and passed third-placed Telitz, then chased Dontje and Triarsi. She continued to set fastest sectors - and the fastest lap of the race among all the Lamborghini entries, including Pro cars.

Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey, Doriane Pin, Iron Dames, 2023 Daytona 24H, IMSA
Photo credits: LAT Images / Jake Galstad

Michelle Gatting took over with 3 hours and 30 minutes to go and was just as fast as her teammate: she gained over three seconds to Frederick Makowiecki's Wright Motorsports Porsche and passed him on lap 634. The Porsche got back at the next pit stop, but Rahel Frey chased back Makowiecki and she successfully completed another great pass on lap 656.

With approximately 100 minutes left on the clock, Doriane Pin jumped onboard for her last stint. There was drama with 50 minutes to go, as the #12 Lexus caught fire and stopped on track, requiring the intervention of the safety car. Pin stayed out once the pit lane opened, but so did most of the GTD cars ahead; Doriane had to pit for fuel though, and Michelle Gatting got onboard just in time for the restart.

Now back on the lead lap, Gatting had moved up to sixth - with the #80 Lone Star Mercedes also receiving two stop and go penalties. Michelle set the car's new fastest lap, but now had almost 40 seconds to close to catch Rovera ahead.

In the final minutes, Michelle settled in sixth place and eventually crossed the finish line to claim Iron Dames’ best ever finish to date in IMSA - topping a P11 at last year’s Sebring 12H.

Gatting, Frey, Pin and Bovy all completed heroic stints, extracting everything from their car with no driving mistakes - as well as a flawless, precise strategy from the Iron Lynx team.

"The 24 Hours of Daytona is done with our best IMSA finish so far and we came home as the top Lamborghini which makes me very proud being part of the pink Iron Dames #83 car", said Rahel Frey. "Our crew did very well, strong strategy, strong mechanics without any mistakes. To start the season on a high is important as it gives us extra motivation for the upcoming races."

"When we compared this to where we were last year, we did a very consistent and very solid race with no mistakes", echoed Sarah Bovy. "The competition was very strong in the GTD class with 23 cars and we finished on the leader's lap and not too far off the podium. It is very encouraging for the future and I am looking forward to coming back even stronger."

Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey, Doriane Pin, Iron Dames, 2023 Daytona 24H, IMSA
Photo credits: LAT Images / Richard Dole

While the BoP proved to be not particularly favorable to the Lamborghini teams, Iron Dames shattered once again the expectations and impressed with a highly positive result that represents the top finishing place for the Italian brand.

"We showed that the Lamborghini has potential to be at the top," commented Michelle Gatting. "The podium was only a few steps away. I am pretty confident for the future and hopefully our first IMSA podium is just around the corner."

In a race that rewards patience and consistency, Iron Dames delivered once again - and are ready to now build on this positive result at the start of the 2024 FIA WEC season in Qatar.

For Doriane Pin, it's already time to head back to the Emirates, as Dubai Autodrome will host the third round of the F4 UAE championship next weekend.

"I am very happy about the race today – P6 in the 24 Hours of Daytona is a great achievement for all of us – we were strong, with no mistakes, and finished on the lap of the leader", said the young French racer. "We learned a lot as a team and I cannot wait to continue to work hard and achieve even more results with the Iron Dames in the future."

The next round of the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup will be the 12 Hours of Sebring, on March 16th.

Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey, Doriane Pin, Iron Dames, 2023 Daytona 24H, IMSA
Photo credits: Iron Lynx



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