IRON LYNX BATTLES FOR VICTORY IN GRUELLING 2023 PETIT LE MANS
A hard-fought campaign on the US circuit came to a close on Saturday, 14 October, as Iron Lynx and Iron Dames convened at Road Atlanta for the final race of the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Prepared to contest one of the most iconic races in the world – the 26th running of Petit Le Mans – the #63 of Franck Perera, Jordan Pepper, and Mirko Bortolotti, and #83 of Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting, and Doriane Pin raced with fortitude and tenacity in a gruelling 10-hour endurance special.
In a tricky wet weather qualifying session on Friday afternoon, Mirko mastered Road Atlanta’s continually evolving track conditions, and executed a committed drive to be a consistent threat for pole position. Unfortunately, after securing second in GTD Pro, the Italian’s lap times were deleted, leaving the #63 Lamborghini Huracan eighth in class. A competitive performance from Doriane, meanwhile, placed the Iron Dames entry in the heat of battle, with the #83 starting second in class and third overall.
As a result of the lap time deletion, the Iron Lynx crew faced an uphill battle from the rear of the field at the race’s start. Mirko drove a strong first stint, and despite the opening 90 minutes being disrupted by three Full Course Yellow periods, made steady progress. After rising to fifth, he handed over to Franck who consolidated the #63’s top-five position, while Jordan entered the cockpit for the first time in the third hour to battle his way into the podium positions.
Unfortunately, a drive-through penalty put the crew on the back foot, but in a critical second stint, Franck rallied his efforts to fight from seventh to take the lead by overtaking the #79 Mercedes of Daniel Juncadella in the waning hours of daylight running. As the sun slipped beyond the horizon, Jordan raced into the night and only strengthened his hold on first position. With two hours remaining, the team completed its final driver change as Mirko returned to the cockpit.
Upon rejoining the GTD Pro battle in fifth, Mirko set out to fight his way back to the front with clinical precision and ascended to second before a 10th Full Course Yellow paused proceedings. Mirko took advantage of the neutralisation to pit for the final time, while a further two stoppages inside the final hour created a five-minute sprint to the line. Cruelly, Mirko was forced to retire after contact on the final restart while holding third in class.
Unfortunately, a highly promising race for the Iron Dames was heavily impacted by a collision in the third hour when Rahel was struck by an LMP3 entry and was forced to pit for repairs. The crew enjoyed a competitive start, with Doriane maintaining her grid position on lap one before pressing home her advantage to take the lead in the GTD class. By remaining in control, Doriane built an advantage of more than 10 seconds but lost crucial time in the pitlane which closed as she went to box at the point of the third Full Course Yellow.
After 85 minutes at the wheel, she handed over to Rahel who resumed the race ninth in class. She drove a strong stint to recover to the top five before being hit by an LMP3 runner which prompted her to pit for repairs with right-rear damper damage. She subsequently rejoined the race eight laps behind the GTD leaders, with Michelle taking the reins just before half-race distance. Doriane, Rahel, and Michelle continued to run and staged an incredible comeback performance to make up five laps and finish 12th in class, with Doriane setting the pace throughout her second stint at mid-race distance.
Petit Le Mans wrapped up what has been a challenging and at times, difficult, season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. This weekend, our Iron Lynx and Iron Dames crews showed great pace and a strong fighting spirit, beginning with qualifying where Mirko and especially Doriane put in an impressive performance. Looking at our speed in race conditions, I think it’s clear that we had everything it takes to finish on the podium with both cars, but unfortunately, it was not meant to be due to incidents on track. Looking back, we enjoyed our first season in IMSA a lot, and I want to thank the championship and our competitors for such a warm welcome. We’ll now work hard over the winter so we can come back stronger next year.Andrea Piccini, Iron Lynx Team Principal & CEO