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  • Writer's pictureRACERS

Sarah Bovy returns in style and claims pole position for 4H of Imola

She's back: after recovering from a significant crash in IMSA, Sarah Bovy secured her third consecutive pole position in the European Le Mans Series by delivering a stunning qualifying performance for Iron Dames at the 4 Hours of Imola.

Gabriela Jilkova, Cindy Gudet, Matmut Competition Toyota GR Supra GT4, GT4 European Championship, 2024 Spa Francorchamps
Photo credits: FocusPackMedia - Tim Hearn

Sarah Bovy made her return behind the wheel for Iron Dames after a significant crash at the latest Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen, third round of the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, which resulted in the Belgian driver being hospitalized overnight. A small concussion then forced her out of the 24 Hours of Spa, ran just a few days later: the Iron Dames team regrouped and focused on the upcoming 4 Hours of Imola, round three of the 2024 European Le Mans Series.

And Bovy, the team's appointed bronze driver for qualifying, once again did not disappoint.

The Belgian had already taken pole position in the previous two rounds at Barcelona and Le Castellet, building on her extraordinary qualifying pace that she has showcased in ELMS as well as in FIA WEC in the last couple of years.

On one of her favourite racetracks, Bovy's third consecutive pole in European Le Mans Series felt even more impressive than usual: the #85 magenta Porsche 911 GT3 R, in fact, had struggled for pace in the previous practice sessions at Autodromo Enzo and Dino Ferrari in Imola, with Ferrari and Aston Martin enjoying an advantage.

Bovy, Gatting and Frey were P11 in the first practice session on Friday morning and, although Bovy brought the car up into the top three in the Bronze-dedicated practice in the afternoon, the half a second margin to the top was a sign of a car not quite perfectly in tune yet. In the second practice on Saturday morning, Iron Dames made more progress and Gatting set a 1:43.430 which was the seventh fastest time in the LMGT3 class.

It was then time for Sarah Bovy to get back behind the wheel and shine once again in qualifying.

Just as the Belgian ace prepared to post her first time, the sister Proton Porsche had a spin at Variante Alta, which brought out a yellow flag. Despite this, she set a time of 1:46.177, placing the #85 Iron Dames Porsche in fifth position, having lost four-tenths in the middle sector.

Sarah then improved her time to 1:44.251, advancing to third place with six minutes remaining. She continued to improve, setting a new purple third sector and moving into second place, securing a provisional front-row start with just two minutes left. At that point, she was only behind the Iron Lynx Lamborghini driven by Hiroshi Hamaguchi.

However, Derek Deboer put in a fantastic lap in the final minute, moving the #59 Racing Spirit of Leman Aston Martin to the top of the timing screens and snatching the provisional pole position.

Unfazed, Sarah Bovy delivered a spectacular final run. With fastest sectors in the first and third sections, she crossed the chequered flag with a time of 1:43.349: this remarkable effort secured her third consecutive pole position in the series.

Iron Dames will therefore share the front row of the 4 Hours of Imola with the #59 Racing of Spirit of Leman Aston Martin, with the #63 Iron Lynx Lamborghini and the #57 Kessel Racing Ferrari following on the second row.

“I’m super happy to be back in pole position in ELMS", Bovy said. "Every little point we can score is going to be important for our championship and personally, it feels great to confirm that I am fit to drive the car fast."

"I can’t wait to be at the start tomorrow with Michelle [Gatting] and Rahel [Frey] to try and go after the good result we have been chasing for too long.”

In the LMP3 category, there was another pole position for a team featuring a female driver: the fastest time in fact went to the #4 DKR Engineering Duqueine, driven by Belén Garcia's teammate Wyatt Brichacek.

The team will start for the first time this year on pole, coming off a remarkably solid practice day on Friday, where they were fourth in FP1 and sixth in both the Bronze and FP2 sessions.

Brichacek initially placed the car in P2 with a time of 1:38.677; soon after, he set the fastest times in all sectors, achieving a provisional pole position - only to have it nullified due to track limits.

Undeterred, Brichacek continued to push hard, clocking an impressive 1:38.019 that secured him the top spot. The American driver wasn't finished yet; he found an additional three-tenths of a second, widening the gap to the second-placed WTM by Rinaldi Duqueine. Despite Oscar Tunjo also setting a 1:38.0 lap, in fact, Brichacek's exceptional performance kept him firmly in the lead.

The 4 Hours of Imola will get underway on Sunday at 11:30 local time.



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