WEC: Top-5 finish for Iron Dames at Spa
Iron Dames continue to fight for the top positions in FIA WEC and, with a fifth place after a very tricky 6 Hours of Spa in wet weather, the all-female trio of Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting maintain their 100% point scoring record in the World Endurance Championship.
The Iron Dames continued their strong start to the season with a fifth place result in the World Endurance Championship at Spa-Francorchamps. In her home event, Sarah Bovy qualified second and put in a superb first stint in which she remained the top bronze rated driver. Equally impressive
stints from Rahey Frey and Michelle Gatting meant the Porsche 911 RSR was never outside the top-5, with Gatting bringing the car home fifth in the GTE-Am class, maintaining the Iron Dames 100% point scoring record in the World Endurance Championship.
The first two free practice sessions took place on Thursday and looked to be of primary importance to the teams, with dry conditions representative of the race two days later. Completing 27 laps across the opening sessions, the Iron Dames finished 10th in the GTE-Am class, albeit the third fastest Porsche 911 RSR, with Michelle Gatting just three hundredths faster than Rahel Frey. Improving to seventh fastest in the second practice session, Gatting was once again the quickest out of the trio, just six tenths ahead of an impressive Bovy.
Final practice on Friday morning brought vastly different conditions and a chance for the Dames to gain useful wet weather experience. All three drivers were able to get valuable track time with a 12th place classification not fully representative with a number of teams switching to slick tyres in the
final stages of the session.
Spa serves as the home race for Sarah Bovy and she was looking to build upon her strong individual start to the season, especially in qualifying where she has been consistently challenging for pole positions in GTE-Am. With a green track following the earlier rain and a session disrupted by a red
flag, it came down to the last lap for Sarah but she delivered a great time which meant a front row start for the leading Porsche 911 RSR.
Tricky conditions greeted the drivers at the start of the six hour race, with a split strategy in GTE-Am. Bovy started the race on slick tyres and this proved to be the correct decision, holding third position at the first safety car period, only losing out to two gold rated drivers. Sarah dealt with the conditions superbly, perhaps benefiting from some local knowledge at her home track to end the
first stint in second place. Continuing to build a gap to the other bronze rated drivers behind her, Bovy remained in second as the race passed the one-third distance.
Unfortunately, a safety car period removed the advantage which Bovy had built up as she handed over to Rahel Frey for the first driver change. For the duration of her first stint, Frey was locked in a thrilling four-way battle for the lead in GTE-Am. At the halfway point of the race, the Iron Dames sat
fourth as Rahey stayed aboard the #85 Porsche 911 RSR for her second stint. Moving up to third in the course of the pit cycle, Frey maintained her strong pace and kept the team in podium contention as the safety car was out once again.
This period allowed Frey to hand over to Michelle Gatting, with the Danish driver tasked with the crucial final stint. Slipping back to sixth following the pit cycle, Gatting quickly set about improving her position and made her way past Diego Alessi on lap 99 to re-enter the top-5. Making her final stop of the day, Michelle was on the move again and overtook the #88 Porsche for fourth position in GTE-Am. Her lap times continued to improve during the final stint, setting what was at the time, the fastest lap from any Porsche driver on lap 122.
Despite her best efforts, with just five minutes remaining she was unable to hold off a charging Harry Tincknell, ending the race in fifth. This was still a very encouraging result for the Iron Dames, their second top-5 in as many races in the World Endurance Championship.
“We finished P5 after a very tough race - we have to be happy that we survived all the chaos and that we avoided any driving mistakes considering how hard it was to keep the car on track”, commented Sarah Bovy. “The new rules with safety cars in WEC is changing the game a little bit but we have to deal with that”, she added. “At the end we made it and it is good points for the championship.”
Spa Francorchamps has always been friendly territory for Iron Dames – who famously took their first victory at last year’s 24 Hours of Spa – and then finished second in European Le Mans Series. The 2023 6 Hours of Spa, though, provided a few extra challenges.
“Spa was definitely a challenge for us today. We gave it everything but it was simply not enough”, Rahel Frey continued. “We did well on the driving side, we have some things to improve like the out lap and some traffic management but it was a good test for the big one: the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
Once again, though, the Iron Dames proved they could fight with the best GT teams in the world, maintaining their record of scoring points in every World Endurance Championship race they have competed in.
“Unfortunately we were a little bit unlucky with the safety car”, Michelle Gatting added. “Sarah managed to make a gap that was destroyed. We have a good package to win races, we just need to find a little bit more performance in the car and as drivers to improve the out lap. I have the feeling the victory is just around the corner”.
The next race on the schedule for the Iron Dames is the Paul Ricard 1000km in the GT World Challenge Endurance Cup on the weekend of 3 rd /4 th June. This will be followed by another race in France a week later, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Iron Dames will be aiming to improve on their best result in the event of seventh and look in a great position to do so.
“Let’s hope that all the back luck is now behind us and that we have a peaceful race there”, Bovy concluded.