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WEC: Iron Dames on front row, pole position for Pin's #63 Prema in LMP2

Sarah Bovy will start from the front row of the GTE-AM field in tomorrow's 6 Hours of Portimao, after another highly competitive qualifying for Iron Dames; Doriane Pin's #63 Prema claimed pole position in the LMP2 qualifying by one thousandth of a second.

Photo credits: Juergen Tap / Porsche

The qualifying battle between Sarah Bovy and Ben Keating continued at Portimao, Portugal, for the second round of the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship. Iron Dames' Sarah Bovy had claimed the last two consecutive pole positions - a historic result for the series - and became the first ever driver to secure back-to-back pole positions with two different car brands, after the record-breaking all-female squad switched to the Porsche 911 RSR in WEC's last year of GTE cars. Bovy showed once again the team's potential at Sebring, leading most of the first part of the race - but an unfortunate off-track moment mid-way through the race denied the team its first win in FIA WEC. At Portimao, Portugal, Iron Dames returned to the stage that last saw them climbing the highest step of the podium, when they won the ELMS 4 hour race last October. With their usual progressive setup work through the sessions, Bovy, Gatting and Frey moved up the order in the GTE-AM class through the three practices, which eventually resulted in a third fastest time for Gatting in FP3, ahead of qualifying. Bronze-rated Bovy took the helm of the #85 Iron Dames Porsche in the afternoon session and was third in her first timed lap. Corvette Racing's Ben Keating led the early stages of the 15 minute session, ahead of Thomas Flohr (#54 AF Corse Ferrari) and Bovy; as times dropped in the closing minutes, Luis Perez Companc (#83 Richard Mille AF Ferrari) moved in the front-running positions, as well as Diego Alessi in the #21 AF Corse Ferrari. Bovy then completed a brilliant lap to set provisional pole - and further improved a 1:41.579 with a handful of minutes left on the clock. Ben Keating, though, did even better with a 1:41.362, which secured Corvette Racing the pole position for the 6 Hours of Portimao by 0.217 of a second ahead of Sarah Bovy.

“Second on the grid for tomorrow’s race is definitely a great spot given the extremely high level of competition", Sarah commented. "This distance suits me and the other two ladies very much. We’ve already won the ELMS in Portimão. Still, it’s very easy to make a mistake here."

"We’ll stay focused and try to get the best out of it.” Just like at Sebring, Bovy and Keating are emerging as the protagonists of the qualifiers. No other drivers have taken pole position in WEC since Monza 2022 - with three going to the Belgian and two to the American driver. Iron Dames will therefore start tomorrow's 6-hour race from the front row, in second position. There's also high hopes for the #83 Richard Mille Racing Ferrari, with Lilou Wadoux's Perez Companc lining up in sixth place in GTE-AM. Wadoux, in her first year as a Ferrari GT factory driver, continues to impress with remarkable performances in practice. Despite an unfortunate first round at Sebring - where a massive crash for Perez Companc in the first laps of the race took them out of the race - Wadoux has been consistently fast at Portimao, setting the fourth and second fastest times on Friday.

Photo credits: Nick Dungan/ Drew Gibson Photography

A name that we will hear a lot during the season is certainly Doriane Pin. The young Frenchwoman was one of the absolute protagonists of the Sebring season opener, when she claimed a podium in her LMP2 debut.

The Iron Dame is sharing the #63 Prema Oreca prototype with Lamborghini factory drivers Mirko Bortolotti and Daniil Kvyat; the fastest of the trio in her first weekend in the car, Pin marginally missed out on a first win in the States before a last minute splash and go for fuel.

The 2022 Ferrari Challenge Europe Champion picked up where she had left off, leading both practice sessions on Friday.

Mirko Bortolotti took to the track for a drama-filled LMP2 qualifying at Circuit do Algarve: the #63 Prema came to a halt as it left the pitlane. In a few hectic moments, the Italian team's mechanics assessed the problem, fixed it and sent the car back out on track, with Bortolotti immediately claiming the top spot.

While his first lap ended up deleted for track limits, Bortolotti again topped the timing sheets with two minutes to go, beating Gabriel Aubry's #10 Vector Racing Oreca by one thousandth of a second - in the second closest WEC qualifying ever.

The #63 Prema turned it around and secured pole position for the 6H of Portimao, as Bortolotti, Pin and Kvyat will start ahead of the LMP2 pack tomorrow. Pin, who was also part of the race-winning Iron Dames crew in ELMS in 2022 at the same track, will have another chance to make some more history in what is turning out to be a spectacular rookie season in the class for the 19-year-old racer.

The two Toyota Gazoo Racing finished on top in the main class, with Brendon Hartley beating Kamui Kobayashi by little over 2 tenths - and 1.4 seconds clear of the two Ferrari 499P of Nicklas Nielsen and James Calado, as the Japanese hypercars proved to have a bigger margin over its competitors at Portimao compared to the Sebring season opener.

The #6 Porsche rounded out the top five over 2 seconds behind, with the #94 Peugeot splitting the two German hypercars.

The 6 Hours of Portimao will go green on Sunday at 12pm local time.



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