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  • Writer's pictureRACERS

Le Mans 24H: Iron Dames push forward through the night

Iron Dames continue to run in the top ten in class as the race reaches its half-way mark – having survived mixed weather conditions and safety cars during the night.

Sarah Bovy, Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Le Mans 24H 2024
Photo credits: FIAWEC / DPPI

Michelle Gatting and Rahel Frey took over driving duties for Iron Dames during the chilly night of Le Mans, having previously recovered positions to place the #85 Lamborghini inside the top five.

The Iron Dames survived changeable weather and difficult strategy calls when the track conditions were neither fully wet nor dry – consistently working their way up the order following a contact in the fifth hour when the #4 Porsche hypercar hit Sarah Bovy.

During the night, Gatting made big progress – especially in her first and second stints – while Rahel would log extremely solid laps, among the fastest for the car, and ran just outside the top five.

When the clock hit the 12 hour mark, Sarah Bovy returned in charge of the #85 Huracan during the second safety car neutralization.

The first safety car had disrupted the seventh hour of racing for extensive barrier repair – and had provided Iron Dames with a chance to close in again on the top three, having previously lost one minute for the incident with the #4 Porsche, which eventually served a drive through.

When the race went back to green after the lengthy neutralization, Michelle Gatting stayed out on the slick tyres despite the worsening conditions. The #92 Manthey Porsche who had been leading the LMGT3 class went off at the restart and, by clearing Al Harthy, Gatting followed Jack Hawksworth by a couple of seconds in a stunning second place.

Michelle navigated the heavy rain on the main straight and the first couple of corners with extreme precision, although the drivers on wets were gaining significantly.

When the Lexus eventually pitted for wets, Gatting stuck with her strategy and briefly led, although Richard Lietz’s Manthey Porsche found a way past on lap 105. She would be shuffled down to fourth when Platinum-rated Dennis Olsen and Klaus Bachler also went past; nevertheless, Michelle was lapping competitively and held her own with no mistakes in very complex and constantly changeable grip conditions.

The Dane pitted for the tenth time on lap 108, kept the helm of the #85 Lamborghini and rejoined in eighth place, just behind the #95 McLaren of Marino Sato. Over her stint, the Danish racer cycled back up to fifth, and engaged in a battle with the #87 Akkodis Lexus for fourth before the next round of pit stops.

Next up would be Rahel Frey, who returned in the driving seat after the opening three hours.

Now in P10, Rahel hunted down Alex Riberas and, once within one second, she continued to put pressure on the Aston Martin. She picked up a position when Jordan Taylor dropped down the order as the tenth hour approached.

Frey ran some of the car’s best laps, consistently within a few tenths, and retained ninth at her second pitstop, then climbed back to seventh with a strong pace, faster than cars immediately ahead and behind. She remained in the car for yet another stint – which saw a full course yellow with 12 hours and 46 minutes left on the clock for stricken cars. Iron Dames opted to pit again – with incumbent rain – and fitted wet weather tyres.

The rain did indeed come – and it was a heavy downpour as the race reached the mid-way point.

Rahel Frey survived those conditions and drove masterfully, keeping a healthy margin to the #95 McLaren.

The conditions worsened so much that, amidst several mistakes for prototype cars, the second safety car of the race was deployed. At the time of the neutralization, Iron Dames pitted for a driver change, with Sarah Bovy starting her second driving shift of the race from P6, behind the safety car.



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