Italian GT: Schreiner P7, Iron Dames claim class podium in GT3AM at series debut
At the 3H of Mugello, Carrie Schreiner was seventh overall in her second Italian GT Endurance round, while Iron Dames' debut in the series was hampered by a power steering issue while they led the GT3-AM class, but still stepped on the class podium.
The Italian GT Championship Endurance series has not been devoid of female talent in the past few years. In 2019, Francesca Linossi claimed the title in the GT Pro-Am class - an outstanding achievement for the Italian driver that this year moved to the Sprint series with the EasyRace Ferrari 488 GT3 in the Cup class. To contest both the series in 2021, another very high-profile driver made her debut on Italian soil: Carrie Schreiner moved from ADAC GT Masters to the Italian GT, at the wheel of the #8 AF Corse Ferrari that the young German star shares with Sean Hudspeth and Antonio Fuoco. At the latest Mugello 3 Hours, second round of the 2021 Endurance series following the season opener at Pergusa, an all-female crew joined the field, bringing the female entries to four: it was none other than the Iron Dames team - the outfit founded in 2019 by women in motorsport's ambassador Deborah Mayer that has been taking the world of motorsport by storm. With its first entry in the Italian series, the project operated by Iron Lynx brought up to nine championships its commitments in 2021, including history-making moments in WEC, ELMS, GT World Challenge Europe, Italian and German F4, Ferrari Challenge, Michelin Le Mans Cup and 24H of Le Mans. The announced line up initially included a new team member: alongside Rahel Frey and Sarah Bovy - also a new entry for the squad's 2021 projects - former British GT champion Flick Haigh was set to make her debut at Mugello. The British driver, though, was ultimately unable to join her new teammates for personal reasons and Michelle Gatting - one of the inaugural Iron Dames trio with Frey and Manuela Gostner - was called into action at last minute notice. Carrie Schreiner - whose 2021 is incredibly busy and has been racing in NLS, GTC and will soon add BMW M2 Trophy to her commitments - had to miss the Misano round of the Italian GT Sprint series due to a clash with the ADAC 24H of Nurburgring, which she contested with the Girls Only team and took class honors. On Saturday at Mugello, the Iron Dames shone with a remarkable fifth place overall - first in GT3-Am - that put the #83 Ferrari on the third row for Sunday's 3 hour race. Schreiner-Hudspeth-Fuoco were seventh overall, placing third in GT3-Pro. The race was certainly an eventful one, with mixed weather conditions on the Tuscan hills to make everything even more complex for the drivers of the 20 entries. The Audi Sport Italia R8 of Drudi/Ferrari/Agostini had clinched pole position, edging the Imperiale Racing Lamborghini of Di Folco/Amici/Middleton and the sister Audi car. At lights out, the Lamborghini of Stuart Middleton managed to get ahead of the Audi cars - in what would be the crucial moment of the race for the Italian brand. Michelle Gatting took the start in the #83 Iron Dames Ferrari and maintained the lead in GT3-Am, dropping to sixth overall. The race of the all-female trio, though, would be early disrupted by a power steering issue that forced Gatting to wrestle her car - in a heroic attempt to continue the race. Carrie Schreiner was also on driving duties for the first stint and the young German battled around ninth position overall.
There was early drama for one of the main protagonists: the pole sitting Audi R8 of Lorenzo Ferrari went off at Casanova Savelli corner and, stuck in the gravel, that would mark the end of the race for the #12 Audi Sport Italia after only 12 laps. Just three laps later, David Fumanelli (Kessel Racing Ferrari) launched an attack on the BMW of Comandini - the two made contact, and Fumanelli went off in the gravel, triggering the Safety Car. Michelle Gatting, meanwhile, had tried to put pressure on the EasyRace Ferrari of Greco, but the steering problems worsened and she had to pit approximately 30 minutes into the race. The Iron Lynx crew was incredibly efficient and managed to fix the issue, but the three women had lost 6 laps to the leaders. "Unfortunately at lap 1 of the race I lost the power steering which made things quite heavy out there." - said Gatting. "I tried to keep fighting and stayed with the front pack until 40 min into the race where we had to replace the whole power steering system which put us 6 laps down. The guys in the pitlane did an outstanding job getting us back on track." Daniele Di Amato (RS Racing Ferrari) was on a charge and recovered several positions up to third place, but was hit with a 5-second penalty for a starting infringement. The Italian continued to chase Basz and passed the second-placed Audi a few laps after the restart and hunted down Middleton in the lead. At the first pit-window, Carrie Schreiner pitted on lap 30 and handed over to Sean Hudspeth after a good stint, while Sarah Bovy rejoined the track in the Iron Dames Ferrari with a now functioning steering. Basz pitted for Salaquarda and Middleton for Amici. Di Amato handed over to Vezzoni - who would inherit the lead ahead of Salaquarda, Mann, Amici and Crestani. Approximately mid-way through the race, the rain made its way onto the track, triggering a series of pit stops as teams switched to wet tyres. Bovy found herself for the first time in the 488 GT3 in wet conditions and impressed, maintaining third place in GT3-Am. Vezzoni's pit stop paved the way for Salaquarda and Crestani in the lead: under the now heavy rain, Crestani passed Salaquarda for the top spot, also with light contact. Conditions were extremely challenging and the new race leader went into the gravel, but could safely rejoin in third. The protagonist of this stage of the race was arguably Daniel Zampieri (Scuderia Baldini Ferrari), formerly established formula driver and now seasoned GT racer. Zampieri battled Salaquarda - but this gave the chance to Crestani to close the gap, join the fight for P1, and regain the lead on lap 47, with Zampieri grabbing second. In another dramatic turn of events, Crestani went off again on the same corner, losing the top of the leaderboard. Ten laps later, the final pit window opened: Postiglione got behind the wheel of the leading Audi R8, Mann pitted for Cressoni, Fisichella for Zampieri and Crestani handed over to Luca Filippi.
Sarah Bovy had a very clean and trouble-free stint, bringing the car back to Rahel Frey in third place in class. "Crazy job from our mechanics for changing it’s super fast and put us back on track", commented the Belgian racer, who is also part of the Michelin Le Mans Cup line-up. "I had the chance for the first time to drive a GT car in mixed conditions, slick tyres, wet track during my whole stint, very interesting experience." "Thanks to both my teammates Michelle Gatting and Rahel Frey for their support and advice along the race weekend. They did amazing on track and helped me to step up on that very chilling track that is Mugello Circuit". Into the final stint, Postiglione led Filippi with an over five-second margin, ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella and Matteo Cressoni, in the second AF Corse Ferrari. Fisichella logged a series of fast laps and passed Filippi, as the latter was also attacked by the fast charging Alberto Di Folco (Imperiale Racing): a contact between the Lambo and the Easy Race Ferrari would leave Filippi with tyre damage and forced the former F1 test driver to a pitstop. Di Folco, meanwhile, jumped ahead of both Cressoni and Fisichella and led the group of the pursuers, with Postiglione in the Audi Sport Italia R8 continuing a lonely race. On the 87th lap, Di Folco went in the gravel in the now still very challenging yet drying conditions; the Lamborghini driver rejoined and maintained his runner-up spot, but had Fisichella and Cressoni back on his tail. Carrie Schreiner's teammate Antonio Fuoco had made it back to seventh place overall - fifth in GT3-Pro - while Rahel Frey was once again setting blistering laps in the GT3-Am class and was moved up from P16 to P13 in the overall classification, third in class behind the sister Iron Lynx car and the Nova Race Acura NSX of Magnoni/Zanotti. At the end of three hour of intense racing, Vito Postiglione brought the #14 Audi R8 LMS GT3 across the line - but was hit with a time penalty for a pit-stop infringement that dropped him to fourth place. Victory went thus to the Lamborghini Imperiale of Alberto di Folco, Andrea Amici and Stuart Middleton, ahead of Fisichella/Gai/Zampieri in the Scuderia Baldini Ferrari and Mann/Cressoni in the AF Corse Ferrari. Fuoco held seventh (P5 in GT3-Pro), as Carrie Schreiner bags some more important points for the championship. Iron Dames' Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy and Rahel Frey - constantly one of the fastest in class at the end - were P13 and stepped on the GT3-Am podium at their series debut; a result that leaves them not fully satisfied but conscious of their race-winning pace. "It was a shame for the Iron Dames that we had this technical problem – their driving performances merited much more than their result on paper”, commented Andrea Piccini, team principal at Iron Lynx and driver of the winning GT3-Am car. "Once again we had the speed to do much better." - echoed Rahel Frey. "But a broken power steering put us 6 laps down. Our technical team did amazing and brought us back on track in no time. We girls drove our hearts out and brought home third place in class - while our Iron Lynx boys made us all proud taking the GT3-AM win!" The Iron Dames will now be joined by Manuela Gostner for the home race at Monza, fourth round of the European Le Mans Series, which will go underway next weekend. Schreiner is currently fifth in the Italian GT Endurance championship, with the 11 points collected at Pergusa and Mugello. The 22-year old will travel back to the Nurburgring as she enters the NLS double header – for the first time in a GT3 car. "After 4 years of collecting experience on the Nordschleife, I can’t wait to do my first kilometres in a GT3 this weekend!" – she stated on Monday. "Together with Racing One I will take part in the NLS double weekend with a Ferrari 488 GT3 ." After a long pause, the Italian GT (Sprint series) will return to the track on 3-5 September at Imola, where Francesca Linossi, third in the GT3-Cup standings, will make her return.