Sarah Bovy: from a remarkable WEC debut, to the Le Mans dream
"A lot of drivers when they start their careers in go karts they're dreaming about Formula 1. I was already dreaming about Le Mans." – Belgian racer Sarah Bovy is turning her life-long dream into reality: after a remarkable WEC debut, she will race at the biggest endurance race on the planet.
At the beginning of 2021, Sarah Bovy wasn't probably thinking that her life-long dream would have turned into reality later that same year. The 32-year old Belgian – a driving performance instructor and GT specialist with several entries in the 24H of Spa under her belt – was reserve driver in W Series in 2019, where she contested three races. But, unlike some of her colleagues, her racing dreams were always linked to sports cars - and that legendary event: the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Bovy joined the expanding Iron Dames project close to the start of the ELMS season, as the team founded by Deborah Mayer was looking for a Bronze-rated driver to partner Doriane Pin in the Michelin Le Mans Cup. Being over 30, Bovy qualified for the FIA categorization system and thus the fast Belgian made her debut at the wheel of the Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo. From the Paul Ricard weekend to the Monza round, Bovy seriously impressed and secured two second places in the GT3 class. She was also part of the history-making squad alongside Doriane Pin and Katherine Legge to become the first fully-female entry in GT World Challenge Europe, as they finished 6th in Pro-Am Cup at the 1000km of Paul Ricard. Embedded in the Iron Dames project, Sarah Bovy has logged good mileage and turned heads on track, gaining a chance to make her World Endurance Championship debut last weekend at the 6 Hours of Monza. Two years ago, in one of our interviews in W Series, Sarah told us: "In five years time I'd like to see myself in a pro team, in WEC or ELMS, that'd be super cool." That moment wasn't far away and not only did she enter a World Endurance Championship round, but she did it in style, by driving an impressive double-stint before handing over the #85 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo to Michelle Gatting in 5th place in GTE-Am. "This race was full of learning, for sure" – she told us after the race. "The car is very different from the GT3, so it took me a little bit of time to get into the pace – and to be honest I still have some work to do." "But overall the first stint was interesting – it was also my first double stint and all went well." – she explained, having run as high as fourth during the pit sequence. "I did some good lap times and had a good pace. The team is happy – I am just really sad that we were a bit unfortunate with the Full Course Yellow and Safety Cars, and we lost a bit of time here and there during the pit stops." – Bovy added, as the team ultimately finished in P8 ahead of the big event of Le Mans. "But big props to my teammates: Rahel [Frey] and Michelle [Gatting] are really impressive behind the steering wheel to be honest. Every time they go in the car it's a good reference for me to see what is possible and achievable." "It's a super nice feeling – even though we knew that we could have done a top five if we were a little more successful in all the strategies. So I guess it's mixed feelings, but a great experience: it's a World Championship, the level is very high and I was not ridiculous on track so it's a good feeling from a personal point of view". For Bovy, who is a very new addition to the program, it all progressed quickly. From a last minute deal to a double podium in Le Mans Cup; from a last minute switch to WEC, to the biggest announcement of her career so far: she will indeed get the seat to the next 24 Hours of Le Mans in four week's time.
"We did very good races in the Le Mans Cup last week – I loved to race with Doriane [Pin] as well and we're competitive in that championship, so my focus is there as well, but for sure the World Championship is something crazy", she said grinning from ear to ear.
"To think that I was not even part of the program some months ago, I would say that the evolution has already been quite good and I'm so grateful for the trust they have in me – they're giving me an amazing life-time opportunity to race in the best conditions in the best championship." – she told us before the team had made the decision to take her onboard for Le Mans.
Deborah Mayer's project is revolutionary not just because it puts three women in the same car, but because it gives women the opportunity to compete in the best equipment and in the best circumstances – a crucial point when it comes to proving what these women can achieve at the highest spheres of motor racing.
"I still think that there's a big room for improvement – it's my first season as a Bronze driver – and I have to get used to the fact that I'm a Bronze now", she joked.
"I have experience, but this is actually the first time that I get to work in these conditions. The team is making sure that I am in the best conditions to improve and learn so much – in the last 15 years I've never been at the highest level in my game so I'm very happy that they give me the opportunity to learn so much."
Now, Bovy will finally have that chance to race in the biggest endurance race on the planet.
"A lot of drivers when they start their careers in go karts they're dreaming about Formula 1. I was already dreaming about Le Mans." – she emphasized.
"When I got the opportunity to race in W Series – even if it was formula cars, I was still dreaming of Le Mans. So of course it was always in a corner of my head. But I kinda had the feeling that it was something I would never achieve, because for me it was too expensive. But now it can come back in the picture."
Her words from our first meeting over two years ago are sounding like a pleasant prophecy now: "I would like to dedicate the following years to build the experience and reputation to drive in Le Mans. That'd be my dream. I know it's a big dream, but you have to dream big".
Turns out no dream is big enough.