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Strong performance for Lilou Wadoux at 8H of Indy despite early technical issue

Lilou Wadoux lost a chance of a back-to-back podium finish in GT World Challenge after an early suspension issue that left her Conquest Racing Ferrari several laps down in the early stages of the 8 Hours of Indianapolis - but the young French star was once again was on top of her game, performing on par with some of the world's best GT3 racers.

Lilou Wadoux, Conquest Racing Ferrari 296 GT3, GT World Challenge America, 2023 8 Hours of Indianapolis
Photo credits: Ferrari Races

French up-and-coming sportscar racing star Lilou Wadoux had just stepped for the first time on a GT World Challenge podium in Barcelona - as she claimed third at the final European Endurance round - that her focus had already switched to a new challenge: her first entry in the GT World Challenge America championship - for its most important event of the season, the 8 Hours of Indianapolis.

The GT3 race that rounds out the American season and runs in conjunction with Intercontinental GT Challenge is increasingly becoming an unmissable event on the sports car racing calendar and attracts some of the top GT teams and drivers in the world. Having just made her racing debut at the wheel of the Ferrari 296 GT3, factory driver Lilou Wadoux - the first female factory driver for the Italian manufacturer - was ready to tackle the North American race alongside Manny Franco and Alessandro Balzan, joining the pair who took the first win for the car in the series at Road America.

Wadoux and Franco had just shared the podium at Barcelona and, with the addition of gold-rated Balzan, the Conquest Racing trio made for a strong line up for the endurance race at the Brickyard. Unfortunately, their weekend was off to a bumpy start; the first day of practice was disrupted by rain, and a clutch issue prevented the #21 Conquest Racing Ferrari from running most of the pre-qualifying session.

Manny Franco took on driving duties for qualifying 1 and he set a 1:24.888 which was then improved by Balzan in Q2, with a 1:23.395 towards the end of the second 15 minute session. Wadoux then did even better, clocking a 1:23.240 that moved the #21 Ferrari to 12th, fourth among the Pro entries, in the combined classification.

Alessandro Balzan was behind the wheel for the opening stint of the race as well and, after a good start where he kept the car out of trouble, he started to climb the overall classification, retaining position in class ahead of Kyle Marcelli's Acura.

On lap 12, though, a big setback meant that the #21 Ferrari made it back into the pits with issues at the front-right suspension. Not even 20 minutes into the race, the car was taken behind the wall for repairs.

The team's crew fixed the issue and the car was sent back out on track, but had lost 18 laps which would prove impossible to gain back.

Nevertheless, Balzan had good pace and continued the race, before handing over to Manny Franco once the safety car was deployed in the second hour for the stranded Mercedes of Jeff Burton at Turn 3. Most of the teams used the opportunity to pit and Conquest Racing, now off-sequence, performed its first driver change.

Lilou Wadoux was up next in the third hour of racing: after a consistent run from Franco, the Frenchwoman started her first stint and soon set the fastest lap for the car, with class-leading pace just a few laps in. After a superb stint, Wadoux handed back over to Alessandro Balzan at the four hour mark; the Italian drove some fast laps himself, highlighting the potential of the team and driver line up.

After the technical issue in the first hour, in fact, the Conquest Racing Ferrari 296 GT3 had run smoothly and with highly promising pace, but was clearly unable to make up for the lost ground. With 2 hours to go, Lilou Wadoux was back in the car for her final stint; she immediately improved the car's best lap and again showed consistency and speed.

As the sun went down, teams were ready for the final pit stop: Wadoux handed over to Balzan for the last stint of the race, having clearly proved why she's rightly considered as one of the most promising young GT drivers in the world.

In now cooler temperatures, Balzan slightly improved the team's benchmark and picked up a position as the #94 Bimmerworld BMW hit trouble in the closing stages.

A fifth place in the Pro class is not the result that the team deserved but still testament to their determination to push through adversities.

With really strong pace, the #21 Ferrari ran flawlessly after early issue; an unfortunate Wadoux could not capitalize on her speed, but once again was on top of her game, performing on par with some of the world's best GT3 racers.

Lilou Wadoux, Conquest Racing Ferrari 296 GT3, GT World Challenge America, 2023 8 Hours of Indianapolis
Photo credits: Ferrari Races



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