Six women at the start of 2022 24H of Spa
Three teams, three different manufacturers and three different classes: here are the six talented women that are entering the 2022 edition of the biggest GT race on the planet, the 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps.
More and more women are rising to the top of international endurance racing: from projects like Richard Mille Racing Team and Iron Dames, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has featured some extremely talented female drivers in the last couple of years, certainly with higher and higher ambitions rather than quotas.
Across the whole sports car scene - from ELMS, WEC, IMSA, Creventic, GT Sport and SRO platforms - women continue to break down barriers on a weekly basis. While the unbelievable costs of single-seaters means that the current glass ceiling at F3 level is still a bit challenging to break, elite sports car racing is proving to be the perfect ground to make history: from Sophia Floersch's podium in ELMS and the most recent achievements by Iron Dames in WEC - alongside a renewed interest by big manufacturers in endurance racing - the future is looking bright for the sport.
Five women entered this year's Le Mans - and six are expected to take part in the biggest GT race on the planet.
The iconic TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps, in fact, will see three teams in three different classes - and with three different manufacturers - with female drivers alternating behind the wheel: Iron Dames will be joined by Samantha Tan and Reema Juffali.
Having significantly expanded their racing programmes in 2022, history-makers Iron Dames - a project founded in 2019 by now-FIA Women In Motorsport Commission President Deborah Mayer - will tackle the Spa 24H race for the first time.
In the #83 Ferrari 488 GT3, established trio Rahel Frey, Sarah Bovy and Michelle Gatting will be joined by young up-and-coming French star Doriane Pin, for the only all-female crew of the race - and the first in 25 years.
The previous all-female team at the event was in fact the #4 BMW Fina entry of Vanina Ickx, Kate Rafanelli and Florence Duez, who shared a BMW M3 in 1997.
Gold-rated Rahel Frey - a driver with extensive experience across some of the most elite motor racing series - will be competing in her second edition of the 24 Hours of Spa: her first entry was in 2013. Home hero Sarah Bovy will be a great asset to Iron Dames, as she is set to take the start of her sixth Spa 24H.
"My last edition was 2018 so it's been a while", Sarah told us after the 6 Hours of Monza.
"It's going to be tough but I think it's the first time that I will get there with a team like this one, with the preparation that I have this year. We know each other as teammates and we know we can be competitive; it's the first time that I have the real chance to fight for something."
Alongside Rahel and Sarah, Michelle Gatting, 28, will be at her first start at the 24 Hour race in the Ardennes. After a stunning first part of the Ferrari Challenge Europe season - and a one-off appearance in WEC, in Spa - Doriane Pin has been promoted to the main Iron Dame line up for the third round of the GT World Challenge Endurance Cup at Spa. Pin, 18, is making waves in Ferrari Challenge, having taken four wins out of the six contested races in 2022. She has also already raced in GTWC with Iron Dames in last year's 1000km of Paul Ricard.
Iron Dames will compete in the Gold Cup, with support from Italian powerhouse team - and 2021 race winners - Iron Lynx.
She was the protagonist of an outstanding first international campaign in 2021, when she claimed six titles in the CREVENTIC's 24H Series - including overall team and driver's championships - and she has stepped up her game in 2022 with entries in the American and European based SRO GT World Challenge: driver-owner Samantha Tan will make her debut at the 24 Hours of Spa Francorchamps in the Silver class category.
With her own Samantha Tan Racing, the Canadian driver took her first outright victory in this year's 12 Hours of Mugello, claiming an historic first global win for the new BMW M4 GT3.
She is also competing in the SRO GT World Challenge America, having graduated from the GT4 America championship.
“The 24 Hours of Spa is the biggest race event the team and I will have ever competed in, and I’m very excited to be one of the 65 GT3 cars entered for the event." - she commented. "After a successful endurance racing season last year and a historic win at the 12H Mugello, we’re looking forward to testing our limits against some of the best drivers and teams in the world."
"We are also the only Canadian team set to compete at this year’s 24 Hours of Spa, and we are honoured to represent Canada. It’s going to be a very competitive race, but we’re always up for the challenge. I’ll be training hard in preparation.”
Samantha Tan will be joined at ST Racing by regular teammates Nick Wittmer and Harry Gottsacker, as well as team newcomer Maxime Oosten.
Saudi racing star Reema Juffali ventured into the world of GT racing in 2022, after competing in the British single seaters' scene for the past couple of years.
Juffali made her first ever start in a GT3 car at the 24 Hours of Dubai in January - and highly impressed with an outstanding performance that gained her her first class podium.
She would enter her first full season in GT3 in the International GT Open - winning both races in the ProAm class at debut at Estoril, before launching her own racing team Theeba Motorsport.
Juffali is fully committed to a future in GT racing and has openly stated that her long term goal is to race at Le Mans - but she's also proving that there's a solid plan to make it happen.
Despite a few unlucky rounds in GT Open, Juffali has shown speed and potential to finish on the class podium on all tracks so far and announced she will join forces with SPS Automotive Performance once again for the upcoming 24 Hours of Spa - for her second ever 24 hour race.
“I’m looking forward to a return to one of my favourite tracks and I know I’m in great hands with the team at SPS automotive performance" - she commented. "After such a strong 24-hour race debut in Dubai earlier this year, I’m feeling optimistic and ready for what’s to come."
The Saudi driver will share the #20 Mercedes AMG GT3 with George Kurtz, Valentin Pierburg and Tim Müller, as the crew tackles the Bronze Cup category.
"Each endurance race is unique and I know Spa will be tough and challenging, but I have great team-mates at my side and I can’t wait to see what we can do together", she concluded.
The first official practice sessions start on Thursday 28th July, while the race itself will get underway at 16:45 local time on Saturday 30th July.