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Lilou Wadoux completes 12H Gulf with P4 in class

Lilou Wadoux ran some stellar final stints in the Gulf 12 Hours, closing up the gap to the cars ahead and crossing the finish line fourth among the GT3 AM class at the 12th edition of the Abu Dhabi endurance race that concluded the Intercontinental GT Challenge.


Lilou Wadoux, AF Corse, 12H Gulf, Abu Dhabi
Photo credits: Ferrari Races

Lilou Wadoux completed the 2023 racing season with a fourth place in the GT3 AM class at the 12th Lenovo Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi, which wrapped up the 2023 Intercontinental GT Challenge. As a Ferrari factory driver, Wadoux joined AF Corse to aid an AM entry at the wheel of the #20 Ferrari 296 GT3, teaming up with Christian Colombo, David Tjiptobiantoro and Stephane Lemeret.


Wadoux has raced in a wide variety of racing series in 2023 since joining the Prancing Horse, including FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe, GT World Challenge America, IMSA Sportscar Championship - and is set to head to Japan in 2024 to contest her first SuperGT season with PONOS Racing, piloting a 296 GT3 in the GT300 class.


Having first raced the new 296 GT3 machine at Barcelona in the final round of GT World Challenge Europe, Wadoux has immediately shown great speed - including at the previous Intercontinental GT Challenge round at Indianapolis 8 Hours, where she impressed with great stints for Conquest Racing, despite an unlucky weekend due to early technical issues that eventually hampered the final result. Lilou, though, continued the positive trend at Yas Marina Circuit, where she again posted great times in a stellar final part of the 12-hour race.


The weekend started with positive testing, where the #20 Ferrari ran in the top five for most of Friday, including a second place in the second test session. On Saturday morning, the AF Corse crew was fourth fastest among the AM class in both official practice sessions, with a best lap of 1:53.052 recorded in FP2.


In the four-part qualifying, David Tjiptobiantoro was fourth fastest with a 1:57.471 lap, before Wadoux set the new benchmark for the team in Q2 thanks to her 1:51.878 that was the car's fastest lap from the weekend up until that point and that put the #20 machine in second place in class and eleventh overall among an outstandingly high quality field of some of the best GT3 drivers in the world.


While the session was long-red flagged an accident that delayed the following sessions, Christian Colombo was up next and clocked a 1:53.602 in Q3, before Belgian Stephane Lemeret, an experienced driver in touring cars, was fifth fastest in the fourth session with a 1:52.463 lap. In the combined results, the #20 AF Corse Ferrari ranked 21st overall and sixth in class, ahead of the 12 hour race on Sunday.


David Tjiptobiantoro would take the start in the first stages of the race, which was the overall leaders pitting as early as the first and second laps of the race in order to burn the compulsory number of pit stops. Tjiptobiantoro climbed to P19 overall, then settled in P9 among the AM class after being overtaken by Manuela Gostner in the #73 MP Racing Mercedes. After a Full Course Yellow 30 minutes into the race to remove a bollard, Tjiptobiantoro held position, then pitted on lap 25 at the following neutralization, when a big shunt for the #59 Garage59 McLaren of Shaun Balfe at turn 1 brought out a safety car that sparked a new round of pit stops and required barrier repairs.


As soon as the race went back underway with 10 hours and 40 mins to go, the pit lane became a busy place once again and on cold tyres, the #4 Grove Porsche - running third overall and first in ProAm, hit the wall hard and triggered another Safety car.

Up to sixth in GT3 AM, Tjiptobiantoro stayed behind the wheel at the green flag and would pit on lap 47, when Stephane Lemeret took over from P7 in class.


Lemeret soon improved the team's best lap and tried to chase the #79 Tsunami RT Porsche for sixth in class. He made up positions and climbed up to P14 overall and fifth in class at the three hour mark, when Christian Colombo took over. Colombo moved ahead of the sister #61 Ferrari once the latter pitted, but positions were restored at the following stop, as Lemeret climbed back aboard. The two alternated behind the wheel and Colombo was back on track for his second stint as the race almost reached its midway point, with positions almost settled; the AF Corse crew ran sixth in class, two laps behind the class leader.


Lilou Wadoux, AF Corse, 12H Gulf, Abu Dhabi
Photo credits: Ferrari Races

Lilou Wadoux started her first driving shift with 5 hours and 25 minutes to go, taking on the #20 Ferrari on lap 181 from P6. After a couple of timed laps, Lilou was already on par with the team's best times; she cycled back up to fifth after Miguel Ramos' stop;, then a full course yellow was deployed when Stefano Borghi crashed at speed entering turn 6, totaling the #79 Tsunami RT Porsche. When the Safety Car neutralized the race, Lemeret was back behind the wheel.


At the restart, big battles heated up throughout the field and in every class; Lemeret held P5, now on the same strategy as the sister #61 AF Corse Ferrari behind. They would now have to close a 2 lap gap to the Haas RT Audi ahead, fourth in AM. Colombo was in the car next, and he would remain in the driving seat for a one hour stint with Lemeret then rejoining.


Lilou Wadoux was finally back behind the wheel on lap 296, as the race reached 1 hour and 22 minutes to go. The pit stop shuffled the #20 Ferrari back to sixth before the #61 sister car also stopped. Lilou immediately lapped on the 1 minute and 53 mark, over two seconds faster than her teammates, then set the car's best lap in a 1:53.5 that was on par with some of the front running cars.


Her fastest times further improved and, having reclaimed fifth, she pitted for fuel and a new set of tyres on lap 309. On the fresh rubber Wadoux was soon under the 1:53 mark and closed the gap to the fourth placed Audi to one lap - continuing to run 5 to 6 seconds per lap faster in a stellar double stint.


In the final stages of the race, the Frenchwoman incredibly almost closed a 2 lap gap and eventually crossed the finish line 41 seconds behind the #2 Haas RT Audi, following a brilliant drive. The gap was further reduced to 11 seconds after the Audi received a post-race 30 second penalty for short mandatory pit stop, and then the #2 Audi was handed a further penalty for not meeting the minimum bronze driving time that resulted in a ten lap penalty that promoted Wadoux and her teammates to fourth.


Having completed 340 laps around the technical Yas Marina Circuit, the #20 machine was the best placed of the Ferraris in class, and the first out of the three AF Corse cars in the AM category.


The #99 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing driven by Luca Stolz-Mikael Grenier-Maro Engel took overall victory over the #46 Team WRT BMW M4 GT3 of Valentino Rossi-Dries Vanthoor-Nick Yelloly, while the Intercontinental GT Challenge title went to sportscar superstar Jules Gounon, third across the line in the #14 2 Seas Motorsport Mercedes.


With a P15 overall and a top five in class in the final race of the year, Wadoux proved once again her worth as a factory driver; her winter break, though, is now expected to be a rather short one, as before focusing her efforts on the preparation for her next big challenge in the Land of the Rising Sun, Lilou will have another big event to prepare: the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, as the 22-year-old French driver joins AF Corse in a LMP2 entry.

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