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Iron Dames Make History in Bahrain

"Emotional" race win secures first ever all-female crew win in World Endurance Championship


By: James Kinnaird


PHOTOGRAPH: MARIUS HECKER - FOCUS PACK MEDIA


The final round of the World Endurance Championship saw the teams take on 8 hours of the Bahrain International Circuit, in a weekend that would see history made, in more ways than one. 

 

Bahrain beckoned the end of one of the most popular series in endurance racing, the GTE class. And, somewhat fittingly, the last ever GTE race saw the first ever all-female crew win in the World Endurance Championship, since its inception in 2012. 

 

The number 85 Porsche 911 of the Iron Dames was piloted to victory by Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy, and Rachel Frey. The team started from pole position after Bovy had come out quickest in a tight qualifying session on Saturday. 

 

The push for victory was assisted after a drive through penalty for the chasing Northwest AMR Aston Martin, and a retirement for the sister Iron Lynx Porsche elevated the Iron Dames to the lead of the race. But an error-free drive in a crowded field saw Michele Gatting hold off the pressure and cross the line with a gap of two seconds to the chasing pack. Securing the Irons Dames place on the top of the podium, and in the history books. 

 

Speaking post-race, an emotional Gatting expressed how much this win meant to both her and the team. “I’m very proud of the whole team on this project. This is exactly what we want to achieve, and we want to prove that we can compete on exactly the same level as everybody else and we are here to win races.”

 

The ‘Iron Dames’ was a project was established by former driver Deborah Mayor in 2018 and aims to promote women within motorsport while affording them the opportunities to race in the top categories in the sport. Mayor spoke on the project’s goals following this historic win. “The Iron Dames project was founded with the belief that women could excel in a male-perceived world such as motorsport, and we are incredibly proud of what Sarah, Rachel, and Michelle have achieved.”

 

The Iron Dames have spent most of the season proving their doubters wrong, being one of the most consistent teams in the GTE field. The team were unlucky to not have achieved their inaugural win, and more, back in June. The now infamous hot pink Porsche led the world famous 24 hours of Le Mans for over half of the race until agonisingly missing out on a podium. A win that afternoon would have also sealed the first ever all-female class win at Le Mans. 

 

Nevertheless, narrowly missing out on a podium finish in a race such as Le Mans turned heads up and down the paddock, installing the belief that it was only a matter of time before the team achieved their first win. 

 

The Iron Dames are just one of many paving the way for women in the world of motorsports. The newly founded F1 Academy is looking to promote women at the very highest level of motorsports, with the series supporting seven Formula 1 races in 2024.  Drivers such as Abbie Pulling, and Bianca Bustamante have already benefitted from the series securing places in the junior driver programmes of Aston Martin and McLaren respectively. 

 

A recent Harpers Bazar interview with Samantha Tan, founder and driver of Samantha Tan Racing, shed more light “Any mistake I make on the track often leads to critics attributing my error to my gender, throwing around phrases like ‘typical women driver’ or ‘it’s because she’s a girl”

 

The Iron Dames have become a force to be reckoned with in the world of Endurance racing. With the team entering the American based IMSA series (International Motor Sports Association) from 2024, there is no doubt the infamous pink Porsche will be fighting at the front, and for more than just race wins. 

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