Sarah Bovy claims pole position for Iron Dames in ELMS finale
She's done it again: Sarah Bovy puts the #83 Iron Dames Ferrari on pole for the 4 Hours of Portimao, becoming the first ever woman to clinch pole position in European Le Mans Series.
Iron Dames have done it again: the all-female project continue to make history at the top of sportscar racing and, after taking their first pole position in FIA WEC earlier this year - when Sarah Bovy secured the historic result at Monza - the Belgian racer has clinched the team's first pole position in European Le Mans Series at the season finale in Portimao, Portugal.
It has not been an easy start of the weekend for the Dames at Autodromo do Algarve, as Bovy, Gatting and the latest addition to the team, Ferrari Challenge Europe newly-crowned champion Doriane Pin, progressively moved towards the top five in GTE, session after session.
In Friday's test reserved for Bronze-rated drivers, though, Bovy showed a glimpse of the #83 Ferrari's potential, as she set the third fastest time behind the #77 Proton Porsche and the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Petrobelli.
And it would be Giacomo Petrobelli to set the early pace in the 10 minute qualifying session on Saturday afternoon, while Sarah Bovy, the elected driver for the opening stint of the race throughout the season, waited in the pitlane.
Omani driver Ahmad Al Harthy (#69 Oman Racing with TF Sport Aston Martin) - another driver that has shown incredible qualifying pace all season - slotted into second place soon after, but no one could seemingly approach the #66 JMW Ferrari at the top. Rinaldi Racing's Diego Alessi got closer to the benchmark time, but it would be Sarah Bovy to really take the fight for pole position to another level: on her first attempt, Bovy was 0.027 of a second off from the provisional pole and continued to push with 2 minutes to go.
Petrobelli ultimately pitted, as he felt he had nothing left to squeeze out of his Ferrari. With 14 seconds left on the clock, Sarah Bovy managed to improve the first two sectors by 0.009s, and 0.023s, crossing the finish line in 1:41.916 that put the #83 Iron Dames Ferrari on pole position at Portimao.
Sarah Bovy became the first ever female racer to clinch pole position in European Le Mans Series - in another groundbreaking moment for the project launched by Deborah Mayer.
Bovy's achievement comes after the Belgian racing star was close to the top of qualifying throughout the season: from the opening round at Le Castellet, to the previous 4 Hours of Spa Francorchamps, Bovy has been three times on the front row - with P4 as her worst starting position.
"It's a great feeling to have this here", said Bovy. "Obviously I was a bit disappointed to not have it in Spa, but here I could feel the team was really pushing for it."
"They work so hard to get the car to be as competitive as possible" - she continued, dedicating the pole position to Iron Lynx's mechanics. "We tried several things all over the practices and it's not easy - it's a very technical track. There are a lot of opportunities for drivers to make mistakes."
"At the end I was able to do some good laps and avoid any troubles with track limits. I really have to thank the team because the mechanics stayed very late yesterday to work on the car. This pole position is definitely for them".
JMW Motorsport will line up alongside Bovy on the front row tomorrow, while the #32 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari will share the second row with the #69 Oman Racing with TF Sport Aston Martin. The two Proton Competition Porsches of Christian Ried and Michael Fassbender were sixth and seventh fastest, and preceded the bright yellow Kessel Racing Ferrari of Takeshi Kimura.
The 4 Hours of Portimao will round out the 2022 European Le Mans Series championship, with Iron Dames aiming to keep momentum after their first podium of the season in ELMS last time out at Spa Francorchamps; Bovy will hope for a clean first part of the race, in order to hand over the pink Ferrari in the hands of her teammates Michelle Gatting and Doriane Pin in a good position; Pin and Gatting have showed impressive consistency in practice, so hopes are high for a positive end of the season.
"I feel confident because I have a lot of trust in our team; we are building our race weekend in the smartest way possible and really preparing the race for the longest stints" - Bovy continued. "A pole position is always a great feeling and it's a point in the championship so we work hard for it too, but our main focus is always on the race pace."
"I hope that tomorrow we'll be able to do the job and to demonstrate that at the end, what matters is not just the good lap I did but all the hard work that we've been doing to set up the car."
The race is scheduled for Sunday at 11:30 local time.