Situated below the stunning backdrop of Mount Fuji, Fuji Speedway, which comprises a wide range of corners, undulation, very long straight and highly variable weather, provided the location for the penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The #60 Iron Lynx of Claudio Schiavoni, Alessio Picariello and Matteo Cressoni and the #85 Iron Dames of Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting and Rahel Frey, both in the Porsche 911 RSR – 19, took to the circuit aiming to build on positive performances in the previous round.
Preparation for the race weekend was heavily interrupted by a typhoon that swept the circuit on Friday. At the same time, rain descended onto the circuit just ahead of Saturday morning practice, but the track was drying quickly as the cars headed out for qualifying.
Bronze-graded drivers Sarah and Claudio were behind the wheel for the 15-minute session, with it clear early on that slicks were the tyre to be driving with. Claudio negotiated the challenging drying conditions well, consistently improving his best lap and finishing 13th in the tightly fought class. Sarah put in another solid qualifying session and qualified second, close to pole position.
Claudio and Sarah started the race. The opening turn was chaotic, allowing Claudio to gain a position. At the same time, Sarah lost out to the D’Station Racing entry, which started its Gold-graded driver before there was a short Safety Car for a beached Ferrari.
As has been the story of much of the season, the opening couple of stints featured Sarah battling against the #33 Corvette, with the pair providing some entertaining battles throughout. Claudio put in a pair of consistent stints and gained a further position before handing over to Matteo, while Michelle took over the #85.
Michelle put in solid times and kept the car in contention for the lead at the top of the class. Unfortunately, the #60 car picked up a couple of penalties and slipped back down the order. As the race progressed, the #85 kept within range of the leading vehicles and in the fight for a podium finish.
Rahel, who took over from Michelle after a single stint, battled hard to remain in with a chance of a top-three, but she dropped the order slightly before handing back to Michelle to finish the race. While the overall lap times of Matteo, and later Alessio when he took the car for the final two stints, were intense, the earlier penalties limited the vehicle’s performance and drivers to a position just outside of the top 10 in a race with no retirements.
The pace started returning in the final hour for the Iron Dames, and Michelle put in powerful times to keep close to the Corvette in front. Despite the determined drive, there was insufficient time to work into the top three at the race’s conclusion.
There was a late Full Course Yellow, which was short, and at the chequered flag, Michelle and Alessio brought their respective cars home in fourth and 11th, which puts the Iron Dames in second place in the championship by six points with one race remaining in a very close battle.
Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia
Also in action for their penultimate round of the season was Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia, with the #33 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 of Loh Lean Shen and Mark Darwin and the #37 entry of Kumar Prabakaran taking to China’s Shanghai International Circuit for two 50-minute races – the last round held in the east before the Grand Finals at Vallelunga in November.
The #33 was involved in plenty of battles in the first race, but unfortunately, contact in the closing stages of the race while running in a podium position put an early end to the pair’s race. The #37 dropped back on the opening lap from a class pole and could not recover, coming home fifth in class.
Prabakaran was in a three-way fight for the class lead in the second race, which was only decided in the final minutes. He came home in second position after a late spin for one of the leading trio. For the Shen/Darwin entry, the race came alive in the closing stages, and they could work their way into fourth on the final lap, capitalising on an issue for the car ahead.
FIA World Endurance Championship Results:
- Iron Lynx #60: P11 (GTE-Am)
- Iron Dames #85: P4 (GTE-Am)
Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia Race One Results:
- Iron Lynx #33: DNF (Am)
- Iron Lynx #37: P5 (Lamborghini Cup)
Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia Race Two Results:
- Iron Lynx #33: P4 (Am)
- Iron Lynx #37: P3 (Lamborghini Cup)
Iron Lynx Team Principal and CEO Andrea Piccini said: “It has been a very demanding pair of events in the Far East in Japan and China. We had a challenging FIA WEC race for both crews at Fuji, with the #60 car suffering in the opening part of the race and then having a pair of contacts while fighting hard to get back in contention, which cost them two penalties.
The #85 Iron Dames crew put in a determined performance through the whole race, but we couldn’t match the pace of Ferrari and Corvette in the latter stages to grab the podium. They are in the most vital position to secure second in the championship in Bahrain.
“We have all been very appreciative of the incredible support we have seen here this weekend; seeing so many fans at our garages and showing their love for the team here has been very nice. It was great to see Kumar Prabakhan take a well-earned podium finish after two entertaining Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia races in Shanghai. We will now focus on preparing for the last race in Bahrain and try to end the FIA WEC season on a high note, maximising our championship positions.”
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