The GTE ruleset in the FIA WEC produced countless standout performances from world-class drivers, hundreds of hours of door-to-door action and a slew of unforgettable moments since the championship’s inaugural season in 2012.
It was, therefore, fitting that last night’s finale for the category in Bahrain produced great racing, but also a historic result. The win for the Iron Dames Porsche, driven faultlessly by Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey, and Michelle Gatting will go down in history, as the trio became the first all-female class-winning crew in an FIA World Championship.
“It was emotional and intense,” Rahel Frey told RACER. “Because like Sarah always says, I think it’s easier when you’re in the car because then you’re in control of what you’re doing.
“When you’re watching the last stint from the other side, you are out of control. And being out of control is not a strength of any driver. But in the end, we trusted each other, we can rely on each other. I can just say, I’m very proud of all of us, we did not crack under pressure. And this makes me very happy.”
The final hour of the race produced real tension. When the Porsche on the other side of the Dames garage from Iron Lynx was forced into retirement from the lead, as Bronze-rated Claudio Schiavoni was not well enough to race, it was game on for the Iron Dames, who inherited first position.
This left Michelle Gatting in the final two hours to hold off a fast-charging D’Station Racing Aston Martin. Casper Stevenson, in the Aston Martin at the end, reeled in the Dane, but couldn’t get close enough to make a move. His efforts in closing the gap resulted in a drop-off in performance caused by worn tires and brakes.
“Going into my first stint I heard the gap was around 15 to 18 seconds,” Gatting told RACER. “I thought going into the last stint it would be more or less the same. But unfortunately, it went from 18 seconds to 1.6 in a split second, at least that’s the way it seemed. I was like “Is that him?!!” and then he was in my mirrors. I wondered “Whoa, where did he come from?”
Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting, and Rahel Frey are the first all-female class-winning crew in an FIA World Championship
“He was really pushing to catch me,” she continued. “And at one point, I was maybe a little bit too calm in the car because I wanted to avoid killing my tires too early. But to be honest, when I saw that he was very close I also knew there would be a drop off for him. So when the gap was around 1.6 seconds, I started to push a bit more and he got a bit unlucky with traffic.
“And you know, in the end, I felt that I was more or less always in control of managing the gap to him.”
The Iron Dames team hopes the result, which comes at the end of a season which included a standout GTE Am win for young Frenchwoman Lilou Wadoux in the Richard Mille AF Corse-Ferrari at Spa, will inspire more women to pursue careers in motorsport in the future.
“I think this shows the female strength,” Frey said to RACER. “And we know that we have a very strong female crew also behind us. Clearly, the drivers are always in the spotlight. But it’s not only about the drivers. We have strong females around us who put us there. We have our leading Dame Deborah Meyer, she really believes in us and she keeps pushing the project.
“Clearly in the future, we also focus on the young ones to bring more Dames up. Because we need more we need more of us. We are proud and we need to pass the experience to others.
“We keep pushing, we keep working hard, I think we can still prove that we are one of the fastest out there. And this is exactly what we want. We want to show how performant or competitive you are to keep inspiring the next generation.”
This victory for the Dames comes six years after the project began back in 2017. And it adds to a growing list of accomplishments which includes a standout ELMS GTE win in its final race with the Ferrari 488 GTE EVO at Paul Ricard and a historic Gold Cup class victory at the Spa 24 Hours last year.
Yet yesterday’s triumph still felt like the beginning of something special for the Iron Dames team and initiative in sportscar racing. Next year Iron Dames is expected to return in LMGT3 with a Lamborghini Huracan GT3, and right now the sky, it would seem, is the limit.
“We just kept fighting for it,” concluded Bovy. “And that’s what Iron Dames do, even when it seems impossible, we just go for it and see what happens.”