Saturday, 29 April saw the Iron Lynx and Iron Dames teams on track to contest Round 3 of the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship – the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps – following on from an encouraging outing last time out at Autódromo Internacional do Algarve. 

The traditional Spa-Francorchamps weather system was ever-present during the six-hour competition, meaning the Iron Lynx and Iron Dames drivers had to overcome the unique challenges that only the Ardennes circuit can provide. 

An interrupted qualifying session proved a tricky endeavour for both the #85 and #60 cars. Having failed to get a banker lap in early on, Sarah Bovy of the Iron Dames had one chance to put a lap together and a last-gasp effort was enough for the front row of the LMGTE AM grid. Claudio Schiavoni in the Iron Lynx car meanwhile had similar struggles and qualified P12 in class. 

Mixed conditions and mixed tyre choices were the overarching theme for the start of the race. After an additional formation lap, racing got underway and the competitiveness of the GTE category was immediately evident. Bovy was at the helm for the first stint in the Iron Dames car and, after an hour of running produced a defensive driving masterclass as she held off an Aston Martin at the head of the field. After the first round of pit stops Sarah was holding off yet another Aston Martin for the lead before she was pushed onto the grass on the run down to Eau Rouge (a move that the driver of the opposing car later received a penalty for).  

At the end of an unfortunately timed Safety Car period Sarah pitted to hand over the reins to Rahel Frey but that meant they lost the lead they had fought hard to keep. Re-joining in sixth, Rahel began her comeback drive, eventually joining a four-car battle for the lead of the GTE class which raged for over half an hour. With the final driver swaps approaching, the Iron Dames car was within touching distance of the podium place but was coming under increasing pressure from behind. 

Michelle Gatting would take the wheel for the final two hours but as many did on a cool track, she struggled to get heat into her tyres and was relegated to sixth early in her stint. Once the tyres were up to temperature, Michelle made quick work of the car ahead to regain a top-five position. Much of the final stint of the race would see the #85 car in fourth just five seconds adrift of a podium finish, but by the flag Michelle had conceded the position to come home in P5. 

Unfortunately for the #60 Iron Lynx car, the first 10 minutes of running would come to define their race. Claudio was caught out by the changeable conditions early on and dropped two laps to the rest of the field, a deficit the team was unable to recover. Despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, the drivers refused to give up and for the next four hours, Claudio and Matteo Cressoni displayed some impressive pace in their attempts to close the gap. 

Alessio Picariello would take over for the final two hours and it was quickly apparent that his team mates’ efforts had not been in vain. A fellow Porsche 911 RSR-19 car and P11 were in sight as he came out of the pits. Alessio would eventually get the job done after a Safety Car restart and went on to run closely behind the leading quartet in the final hour of the race, before crossing the line in P11. 

Iron Dame Doriane Pin showed another impressive turn of pace in the #63 Prema Oreca 07-Gibson. So much so that the first racing lap would see her jump from the team’s P3 grid slot to lead the pack. Despite dropping back to P2 shortly thereafter, Doriane continued to fight at the front and, during her second stint pulled off a heart-stopping overtake on the run down to Eau Rouge to take back P2. The remainder of the race wouldn’t be as positive for her team mates with a significant stop-and-go-penalty taking them out of contention, eventually finishing P10. 

Iron Lynx Team Principal and CEO, Andrea Piccini, said: “There were very difficult conditions at the beginning of today’s race; starting with cold slicks on a damp track is never easy. Claudio [Schiavoni] spun and lost two laps and despite good pace from everyone in the #60 car, it wasn’t possible to recover from that.

“The Iron Dames had a positive race and showed some great speed. The Safety Cars and Full Course Yellows didn’t help us because we were leading with a huge gap, and we lost it all. Rahel [Frey] and Michelle [Gatting] kept fighting till the end and finished very close to the podium. The speed is definitely there, we’ll take this as preparation for the big race!”