Sarah Bovy claims final pole position in GTE history
"You can be sure that the pink car will be fighting like hell to bring back that first victory before the end of the GTE era". Sarah Bovy claimed a historic pole position - the last in the GTE era - and the third of the season for the #85 Iron Dames Porsche 911 RSR-19 ahead of the 8 Hours of Bahrain.
Iron Dames will line up on pole position for the 8 Hours of Bahrain, final round of the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship, after Sarah Bovy secured the team's third pole position of the season in the GTE category - in what is destined to be the final GTE pole of the class history.
Bovy - who had claimed pole in Bahrain last year as well - beat the competition by over two tenths of a second with yet another remarkable qualifying performance, now a trademark of the Belgian talent.
Having set a 1:58.692 lap early on in the session, Sarah put the pink #85 Porsche 911 RSR-19 on top of the timing sheets.
While she was on an even faster time on the next lap, a spin without damage meant that the Belgian couldn't eventually improve in the final minutes, but she had done enough to crush the competition - led by the #777 D'Station Racing Aston Martin driven by series rookie Liam Talbot, subbing in for Satoshi Hoshino. Ahmed Al Harthy made it two Aston Martins in the top three, as the #25 Oman Racing Team by TF was third, almost half a second adrift.
Takeshi Kimura (#57 Kessel Racing Ferrari), Ben Keating (#33 Corvette Racing) - who had previously been Bovy's closest rival in qualifying - and Ian James (#98 Northwest AMR Aston Martin) completed the top six.
Luis Perez Companc qualified the #93 Richard Mille AF Corse Ferrari in ninth place; Lilou Wadoux's teammate had a couple of laps deleted by track limits and eventually completed the session with a 2:00.279 best lap. The car, though, had been fast in practice and Perez Companc, Wadoux and Rovera are confident for the 8 hour race.
Despite Talbot managed to get two tenths close to the Iron Dames' Porsche, Sarah Bovy brabbed the team's third pole position of the year and fifth in the series: the Belgian made history in Monza last year, becoming the first ever woman to score a pole position in WEC. She continued her run with pole in Bahrain, then at the 2023 season opener in Sebring - also becoming the first driver to take two consecutive pole positions in two different car brands.
With Iron Dames switching to the Porsche 911 GTE for the final season of the category, Bovy, Gatting and Frey have been one of the most consistent trio of the championship, collecting 79 points with one round to go - more than anyone except the championship-winning #33 Corvette.
"I really want to dedicate this one to Deborah Mayer, for all the confidence and power she gives us. She is the reason why I'm here" - Bovy commented after qualifying.
"I'm super happy I can sign the last class pole position - it was extremely difficult, like all the other categories here, we are struggling with the choice of tyres, how to handle them, how to have enough performance, but not having too much drop off at the same time. We really have to work on a qualifying car and a long stint car - and with the limitations in driving time for the first practice really made our life difficult."
A sand storm - followed by heavy rain had in fact massively limited running time on Thursday in practice.
"I also want to say a massive thanks to our engineers and all the mechanics who did an incredible job in giving me a car that was really sharp and fast for the good lap", Bovy continued.
"I was still improving a little bit and I also do believe that because of that aggressive choice we made in terms of quali strategy the drop came quite quickly in the second push lap. When I arrived in the last sector I just lost the rear on that corner [turn 14]. Luckily the consequences were not too bad but it was just a confirmation after when I tried again that the drop was there and it wasn't possible to improve anymore," Sarah explained.
"I'm happy with the choice we made because competition was really strong here in Bahrain - the Astons were super close. That's another proof that qualifying, while it might be a personal performance, is teamwork. All the decisions we are taking together are the ones that are going to give you the final result."
The final race of the season - and indeed of the GTE era - will go green on Saturday at 14:00 local time, as Iron Dames will chase their first victory, always with an eye on the big picture, which is securing second in the championship standings. Bovy, Frey and Gatting have a 7 point margin on the #54 AF Corse Ferrari.
"You can be sure that the pink car will be fighting like hell to bring back that first victory before the end of the GTE era. Will we do it or not? Only the future will tell."