Top-10 finish for Iron Dames to close out the GT World Challenge Europe season
Concluding the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup season with a top-10 result, the Iron Dames provided a spirited performance at Circuit de Barcelona despite a challenging weekend for the trio, whose tenacity and fighting spirit was again on display.
Concluding the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup season with a top-10 result, the Iron Dames provided a spirited performance at Circuit de Barcelona. It was a challenging weekend for all-female crew who, after qualifying tenth in the Bronze class, ran as high as sixth before taking the checkered flag in tenth. Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting should nonetheless be proud of their performances throughout the season as they fought hard at the highest level of GT3 endurance racing.
Looking back on the challenges faced, Rahel said “We still had unfinished business with Barcelona – and it remains unfinished. We’ve had another challenging weekend with our #83 Lamborghini beauty and it seems like we just need more time to get to know each other better, like in any strong relationship. But we are very happy to be able to count on a strong team behind us that will face every challenge with us”.
The Iron Dames arrived at Barcelona searching a positive result to end their GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup campaign. Despite showing excellent speed, particularly in qualifying, the trio have endured some bad luck during the races. The hard-fought nature of the Bronze class also means that a small stroke of fortune can also make a significant difference.
Finishing the opening paid test sessions 16th and 14th in the Bronze class respectively, Sarah was then able to move the #83 Lamborghini Huracan into 13th during the Bronze test.
Saturday saw the trio hit the track for two more practice sessions, with both qualifying and the race to come on Sunday.
With the morning practice session taking place at the same time of day as qualifying, it was an important session for developing setup with the Iron Dames setting the 11th fastest time in the Bronze class. Pre-qualifying brought a 16th place class result with the trio of drivers gaining more valuable track time.
Qualifying on Sunday morning would be a chance for the Iron Dames to display their consistency, with the average of all three drivers fastest times setting the grid for the three hour race. Rahel drove in Q1 and set the 11th fastest time in the Bronze class, before Sarah set the 14th quickest lap in Q2.
Michelle took to the track in Q3 and was the fastest of the trio, placing eighth in class with the potential for a top-5 lap time. The cumulative times placed the Iron Dames tenth in the Bronze class with their eyes firmly set on moving forward during the race.
Sarah took charge of the start and used her experience well to gain five overall positions on lap one, moving the #83 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 into ninth in the Bronze class. Passing both Louis Machiels and Henrique Chaves, Bovy was up to seventh by the end of lap four. Her progress continued two laps later when she passed Theeba Motorsport driver Reema Juffali, before closing in on the Mercedes AMG of Florian Scholze.
Sarah’s pace in the opening stint continued to match those of faster drivers ahead and by lap 20, she had gained eight overall positions from her starting spot. A full course yellow period then prevented the Belgian driver from gaining further ground, with Rahel taking the wheel for the middle stint.
Despite losing out in the pit sequence and dropping to ninth, Rahel showed her tenacity at the restart as she held off a charging Rodrigo Baptista to maintain position. Despite falling behind the Akkodis ASP Team driver on lap 38, the Bronze class positions remained closely contested and this provided opportunities to move forward once again.
With high track temperatures and significant tyre degradation, managing these variables would be vital to a strong stint and Rahel’s experience paid off as her one-hour behind the wheel progressed. Moving into eighth by lap 53, Frey continued to make up time as her stint concluded and ran seventh in the Bronze class as she handed over to Michelle Gatting.
Gaining five positions after losing out to Baptista highlighted that the Swiss driver had controlled her speed well in order to maximise her overall race pace.
Michelle enjoyed a number of close battles at the very beginning of her stint, with her progress then interrupted by a full course yellow period. This stoppage was extensive and when racing resumed, the Iron Dames driver ran seventh in the Bronze class but was under attack from a number of experienced rivals.
Gatting dropped to 11th by lap 77 and although fought hard to regain lost ground, progress was challenging in the tough conditions. Continuing to fight hard, Michelle gained one position with two laps remaining to move into tenth position and close out an encouraging campaign in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup for the Iron Dames.
Looking back on the GT World Challenge Europe campaign, Sarah said “This difficult season has got us down on one knee, but I guarantee you, we will get back on our feet”.
While Michelle added “Sometimes the pace was there and we thought podiums were within reach, but issues came in the way. Other times the pace was just missing and often we struggled to understand why. I believe those moments are what makes us stronger, and the goals are even more clear in the horizon”.
Although it was a weekend of challenges for the Iron Dames trio, their tenacity and fighting spirit was clear to see. All three drivers pushed to the limit to extract performance from the Lamborghini Huracan, with the second half of Rahel’s stint particularly impressive as she successfully managed significant tyre degradation to move through the field.
One more race remains on the schedule for the 2023 season with the Iron Dames returning to the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship for Motul Petit Le Mans on the weekend of 13th/14th October at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.