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Le Mans, 8H update: Iron Dames continue to battle at the top of LMGTE-AM

The sun has set - but the Iron Dames keep shining on track, as great stints by Sarah Bovy and Michelle Gatting keep the pink Porsche in the top positions of GTE-AM.

The #63 Prema Oreca is making up ground after a challenging start, in between downpours.

Photo credits: Porsche

The second four hours of racing continued to be extremely hectic, with non-stop plot twists across all classes. After gaining the lead in GTE-AM just at the four hour mark, Iron Dames had more brilliant stints with Sarah Bovy and Michelle Gatting. Rahel Frey took the start and moved from P12 to second, with a flawless drive in extremely difficult conditions and supported by perfect strategy calls by the team, who made the most out of all situations. By pitting at the first safety car, - and then again at the first slow zones - Iron Dames gained ground, with Frey making great use of her experience. When Sarah Bovy got behind the wheel under safety car conditions, she held on brilliantly in the downpour and then took over the lead in class, extending the gap as bronze drivers took over. In the hands of Michelle Gatting, Iron Dames retook the lead at yet another well-timed pit stop, then kept battling solidly in the top three. The #63 Prema Oreca of Doriane Pin, Mirko Bortolotti and Daniil Kvyat had a tough start of the race after a great qualifying. Kvyat was behind the wheel for the first stint of the race and briefly led during a highly chaotic first lap, but he soon dropped down the order having picked up damage from the crash of the #311 Cadillac on lap 1. Forced to pit for a bodywork change after the first safety car, Kvyat dropped down the order and handed over to Doriane Pin from P21 in class. Pin was in the driving seat just as the first big downpour shuffled the order. She made no mistakes and kept the car on track - something that way more experienced drivers failed to do. She recovered to 17th during her stint, before Mirko Bortolotti took over. One lap behind, Bortolotti had to take some chances and - in between more torrential rain - he brought the car up to 12th. Unfortunately, the race of the #83 Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari of Lilou Wadoux came to a halt in the third hour. Alessio Rovera had started the race for the Richard Mille entry, moving up from fifth to third. After the safety car, though, Rovera settled again in P5, before Luis Perez Companc got behind the wheel. The bronze-rated driver dropped to P14 in class before Lilou Wadoux could start her first stint in the car. Unfortunately, her outlap coincided with the first sudden rain shower, and the young Frenchwoman was caught out by the conditions, crashing at high speed. The car has been retired. Here's a recap of the second four hours of racing. After a very lengthy safety car neutralization for the treacherous weather conditions, the race went back to green with 19 hours and 40 minutes to go: the hypercar class was on fire, as the Hertz Team Jota Porsche took over the lead from the #94 Peugeot and the two Ferraris battling for third with the #5 Porsche and the #7 Cadillac. Jota also led LMP2 with Oliver Rasmussen, after the Alpine pitted. Sarah Bovy held the first place in GTE-AM, with a 7 second advantage over the #911 Proton Porsche of Martin Rump. Doriane Pin sat in P17 in the Prema Oreca, but was losing time on the wet tyres, on a quickly drying track. They would pit on lap 49, with Mirko Bortolotti emerging behind the wheel. The #6 Porsche hit trouble with a right rear puncture; with a new slow zone deployed through the Porsche Curves, the top four in GTE-AM opted to pit - handing the lead in class to the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari. After the round of pit stops, the #54 AF Corse Ferrari of Francesco Castellacci - who was off sequence with the Iron Dames and Proton Porsche - was back in the lead. The overall lead changed again right at the end of the fifth hour, when Ye Yifei went off and crashed heavily into the tyre barriers, but managed to get back into the pit lane. Giovinazzi and Molina brought Ferrari back into the two top positions, as the Full Course Yellow was deployed. Porsche's awful moment continued with the #5 coming to a halt on track. Sarah Bovy had an amazing stint and continued to gain time as other bronze drivers got behind the wheel. Bovy passed Francesco Castellacci in the #54 AF Corse Ferrari and grabbed back second place, behind the #911 Proton driven by Rump.

Photo credits: Prema Racing

In LMP2, the #28 Jota and the #34 Inter Europol enjoyed over a minute gap to the #23 United Autosport, after pitting behind the last full course yellow. Having gone one lap behind during a pit stop, the #63 Prema was trying to make up ground in the hands of Mirko Bortolotti, but the Italian was struggling to gain positions, despite good lap times as the sun went down. After 5 hours and 43 minutes, Sarah Bovy completed her first stint in the #85 Iron Dames Porsche and pitted from second, as Michelle Gatting took over. After the round of pit stops, The #8 and #7 Toyotas cycled back to the top of the overall classification, followed by the #75 Porsche and the two Ferraris - as the top six hypercars remained separated by a few seconds. Mirko Bortolotti pitted for the seventh time on lap 70, but remained behind the wheel in 16th. Six hours in, the rain was back at La Sarthe: it was a few minutes of madness again, with cars going off all over the track. Both Porsche hypercars went off and rejoined, as well as several LMP2 Orecas and the race leading JMW Ferrari in GTE. Gatting pitted just at the right time to bolt on rain tyres under yellow, and gained back the lead with another perfect strategy, which gained her over 40 seconds over Matteo Cairoli's Project 1 Porsche. The #9 Prema of Filip Ugran - who had just taken over from Bent Viscaal - went off and picked up damage, while the #63 sister car survived the second downpour and made it back to pitlane for a tyre change. Bortolotti moved up to 14th, as he continued his mission to recover after the team's difficult start of the race. As the track dried up again, Bortolotti went back on the slicks and kept gaining ground again. The #63 machine moved up to 12th, with the Italian driver being among the fastest in class. With 16 hours to go, the #51 Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi was leading the race, ahead of the impressive #94 Peugeot and the #7 Toyota - in what has been the closest racing in hypercar since the start of the category. Pier Guidi, though, spun in the gravel and had to be retrieved - paving the way to Nico Muller in the #94 Peugeot.

Inter Europol and Jota keep the top positions in LMP2 after a well timed pit stop under full course yellow. In the eighth hour, Cairoli clinched back the first place in GTE-AM from Michelle Gatting, who is second with a good margin over the third-placed AF Corse Ferrari.



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