Le Mans 24H: 20H update – Iron Dames claw back to P8
With four hours to go, Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy and Rahel Frey brought the Iron Dames Ferrari back in the top ten and continue to climb the order; Lilou Wadoux had a brilliant stint to defend the top10 and Sophia Floersch gained another position among the ProAm entries.
The sun is shining again on Circuit de la Sarthe, with another warm day welcoming the many fans around the legendary track.
And it was an action-packed morning, with many twists and drama across all classes.
Richard Mille Racing had made it into the top-10 with yet another impressive run by Charles Milesi, before the Frenchman handed over to his fellow compatriot Lilou Wadoux from P10 in LMP2. Wadoux – at her third ever race in LMP2 machinery and having just completed her first night stint, has performed extremely well at Le Mans, lapping very consistently.
Sophia Floersch completed a quadruple stint in the night and handed over the #47 APR Oreca to John Falb in the early morning hours. While their race was ultimately compromised on lap 1 of the 24-hour race due to a gearbox issue, Floersch-Falb-Aitken continued to push to reach the rest of the LMP2 ProAm pack. Aitken and Floersch cleared the GT fields during the night and gained a position in class.
“I did a quadruple stint towards the end of the night, stepping out of the car at around daybreak" – said Floersch. "It was a tough one with all the slow zones, but I’m pleased we survived the night ad we’re still trying hard to gain back the laps we lost in the first ten minutes of the race”
"The motivation hasn’t lessened but the goals have changed, because rather than targeting a podium finish in LMP2 ProAm it’s now all about making up as many places as possible and not finishing last.” – she continued.
Iron Dames – also hit by similar misfortune in the very first laps of the race when Michelle Gatting was forced to pit with a puncture – had a charging 20 hours of racing. Rahel Frey started to climb positions, before her work was picked up by Sarah Bovy and Michelle Gatting on Saturday evening. After eight hours, Iron Dames were back to P11.
Throughout the night, they continued to get closer to the top ten – and Frey did break into the top-10 just before pitting for driver change. In the early morning, the all female team was eleventh before Michelle Gatting could finally move up to tenth.
Brendan Iribe had a big shunt at the second chicane, as he lost it under braking and hit the guard rail at high speed, totaling the Project 1 Porsche that was running P3 in GTE-Am.
The Slow Zone was an opportunity for a few cars to pit for a new set of brakes – as did the #51 AF Corse Ferrari and the #34 Intereuropol LMP2.
But there was more drama, as the third placed #708 Glickenhaus spun – as did Francois Perrodo in the #83 AF Corse Oreca – who then rejoined from a trip to the gravel – and the #3 DKR Engineering LMP2. When the race wasn’t even gone green yet, Pera (GR Racing Porsche) went into the barriers at Indianapolis, but he could return back to the pits and resume the race.
Following a nightmare of a race, the #36 Alpine hypercar went off and made contact with the barriers at Porsche curves, after Vaxiviere was chased by the JOTA LMP2 car and dived around the outside of the GR Racing Porsche.
Lilou Wadoux made a great pass for P9 and battled in a group of front-running LMP2 cars. Michelle Gatting, meanwhile, was also up to ninth as she overtook the #21 AF Corse of Christoph Ulrich.
After the disastrous night for the Porsches in LMGTE-Pro, the #64 Corvette Racing of Alexander Sims had claimed back the lead – but a monumental crash on the long Hunaudieres straight put the final Corvette out of the race. Francois Perrodo found himself in a sandwich as he navigated through traffic and overcorrected – hitting at speed the #64 of Sims, who was fortunately unharmed.
Alessandro Pier Guidi (#51 AF Corse Ferrari) has therefore moved into the class lead, ahead of the #91 Porsche of Makowiecki. The two battled hard for the lead and both teams performed simultaneous pit stops. Pier Guidi held on until the following pitstop, when Gianmaria Bruni moved into the top spot.
Sarah Bovy took over from Michelle Gatting and, with blistering pace, she retook P9 during the pit stop sequence and then chased and passed the #86 GR Racing Porsche, advancing into eighth place. Rahel Frey is currently at the helm of the pink Ferrari, steadily in P8. There was non-stop action for Lilou Wadoux as well, as the young woman was under pressure from Philip Hanson in the #22 United Autosport Oreca. With masterful defensive driving, Lilou held off Hanson for several laps, before having to give up P9. Wadoux, though, was soon back into ninth place after Hanson slowed down and came to a halt. She would pit and hand over to Sebastien Ogier.
Another big shunt brought out the first Safety Car of the race: from sixth place in LMP2, Robin Frijns crashed the #31 WRT Oreca at the exit of Indianapolis Sophia Floersch had meanwhile climbed back in the #47 APR LMP2, after John Falb had completed his driving time. Floersch passed the Graff Racing ProAm LMP2 entry and is currently P22 in LMP2, P6 in ProAm after recovering from P62 overall at the end of the first lap. Still four hours to run, in one of the most unpredictable motor races on the planet.