On Saturday 10 April the Iron Lynx and Iron Dames teams returned to the iconic Circuit de la Sarthe to contest the fourth round and the crown jewel event of the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) – the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which celebrated a landmark anniversary in recognition of 100 years of racing.

As is traditional with WEC’s centrepiece, unpredictable weather, high-speed driving, and intricate strategy defined the race. Throughout an intense fight across the 24-hour period, the #85 Iron Dames Porsche 911 RSR-19 crew of Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey, and Michelle Gatting, and #60 Iron Lynx car of Claudio Schiavoni, Matteo Cressoni, and Alessio Picariello, battled for a place on the GTE AM podium, in a performance defined by resilience, determination, true tenacity, and raw emotion.

With rain in the air, the race’s start was declared as wet, and mixed conditions created a treacherous stage for the opening phase. Rahel was in the Iron Dames cockpit for the first stint, and maintained her grid position in the face of the circuit’s evolution which caught out Jack Aitken who crashed his #311 Action Express Cadillac on the first lap to cause a Safety Car. The team took advantage of this neutralisation to perform its first pitstop and make up significant ground to take the lead using the undercut strategy.

A sudden downpour caused track conditions to deteriorate rapidly, as drivers struggled to find traction in the Porsche Curves. Several offs led to a second Safety Car deployment, which allowed Rahel to pit at the two-hour and 45 minute-mark to hand the car over to Sarah, who rejoined in second place. During the Safety Car, which lasted for more than one hour, Sarah took the lead for Iron Dames and continued to run inside the podium positions.

As the sun began to fade and floodlights started to illuminate Le Mans, Michelle took the reins at quarter-race distance, and executed a clinical first stint to rise to the GTE AM class lead. This position was consolidated during the night and in the final third, the podium picture started to emerge, with the #85 car locked in a four-way fight for victory. A change of brakes in the final hour, however, led to a loss of track position and despite continuing to pursue the podium to the chequered flag, the Swiss driver took home fourth, five seconds adrift of silverware.

Unfortunately, running for the #60 Iron Lynx car came to an early end when Claudio was caught up in a race-ending incident in the third hour. The crew enjoyed a competitive start to the race, with Alessio capitalising upon the changeable damp conditions at the start to rise to seventh in the GTE AM class on lap one.

He continued to build upon his speed during his first stint and took the lead at the end of the opening hour once the field returned to green-flag running. He made his first pitstop at the 75-minute mark and rejoined P14, before setting out on a charge to the podium positions. The Belgian pitted for a second time from second on the road to hand the cockpit over to Claudio, who resumed the race in P13. When making up ground, the Italian was involved in an incident with the #16 Proton Competition Porsche and was forced to retire due to extensive damage.

Meanwhile in the Michelin Le Mans Cup, Hiroshi Hamaguchi and Vincent Abril navigated a challenging weekend, which was underscored by promise. The duo qualified fifth and P18 for the series’ double-round race at Le Mans but were forced to retire with contact in Race One and a technical issue in Race Two after an incredible comeback from Hiroshi, who fought from P18 to P3 in only a handful of laps.

We fought through some very difficult conditions throughout the first half of the race, and after a competitive opening stint from Alessio [Picariello], our #60 crew took an early lead. Unfortunately, an incident meant that their day came to an early end, which left the Iron Dames as our only runners.

Sarah [Bovy], Rahel [Frey], and Michelle [Gatting] drove an excellent race, and we lead through most of the night and stayed in the podium fight until the chequered flag. Sadly, we missed out on the top three by only 10 seconds, and while the Dames achieved their best result at Le Mans, it has a bittersweet feeling, especially after we showed so much potential.