The Iron Dames have made history by taking a stunningly memorable victory at the 8 hours of Bahrain the final race of the 2023 season. Not only did they clinch their first-ever victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC), but they became the first all-female team who has emerged victorious in the world championship, setting a new standard in the world of motorsport.
In a heart-pounding race at the Bahrain International Circuit, Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting, Rahel Frey dominated their subject and made a perfect race thanks to a strong pace, an error-free drive, optimal tyre strategy and pressure firmly under control.
From pole position, Sarah took the start and safely negotiated a chaotic melee between Hypercars and LMP2s in the opening corners and began to open a small gap to the #777 D’Station Racing entry. The #60 Iron Lynx – which began with its Silver-graded driver – came through but the Dames held second place in the early part of the eight-hour endurance.
Sarah completed a great double stint as the battle over third in class intensified as Silver-graded drivers came in and out of their cars, before handing the #85 pink Porsche to Michelle. The pace from the Danish driver was very strong in her first stint, maintaining the gap to the cars behind during her first hour in the car before handing back to Sarah to complete her Bronze drive time. The third and final stint for Sarah went without issue, maintaining the gap.
Rahel took over for two stints afterwards, keeping good, consistent lap times and took to the lead when the #60 had to retire. Moreso, she resisted the #98 Northwest AMR in battle, and that lead only opened when the Aston Martin had to serve a penalty for hitting the #9 PREMA Racing LMP2.
Michelle took the car over for the final two hours of the race and held a comfortable advantage to the #777 behind. With calm and controlled driving, she heroically resisted the pressure and opened the gap slightly as the minutes ticked down to the chequered flag, with a 5.5-second lead once they crossed the finish line. At the end, through the intense race of strategy, traffic management and the heat and demands of the Bahrain International Circuit, it was the #85 Porsche that emerged on top in a very challenging eight-hour endurance.
With this victory, the Dames will go down in the history books as the final ever GTE winners in sportscar racing’s pinnacle championship. It is also the perfect way for the Dames to send off the Porsche 911 RSR-19, which the trio has raced with across the globe in FIA WEC in 2023.
What an incredible day for the Iron Dames! It’s hard to put into words so much joy and emotion. This first victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship is a very special moment to me because it gives full vindication to the project itself and to the passion, the dedication, the hard work of all the people within the team, both trackside and behind the scenes. I’d like to pay tribute to each and every one of them. This historic moment is theirs as well. It’s a world championship victory, but it’s also a family victory. The Iron Dames project was founded with the belief that women could excel in a male-perceived world as motorsport, and we are incredibly proud of what Sarah, Rahel, and Michelle have achieved. Since their debuts as Iron Dames, they have demonstrated remarkable determination, team spirit and never giving-up attitude that this victory rewards. They are proving that dreams have no barriers if you give yourself the means to make them come true. May this day inspire other women around the world to never give up on what they believe in.Deborah Mayer, Iron Dames Project Founder
This race was definitely about tyre management, and I think we managed that pretty well. We anticipated the race conditions, the fact that we were going into the night and we really tried to nurse our very nice Michelin tyres for one last time. In my stint, as I was also taking the start, we didn’t know what to expect in those temperatures. But at the end the pace was there. I think the whole crew did a good job and I’m so proud of everybody. We’ve been working really hard for this, and it’s finally here – our first win in FIA WEC. The wait was long, but we are all super happy to be here tonight.Sarah Bovy
The final stint was pressured and stressful for me inside the car, but in the end, the feedback I was getting from our engineer helped made me stay calm. At one point I could really see the #777 Aston Martin was very close. I pushed a bit more to increase the gap a bit, and in the end with the traffic I managed to increase the gap even more and feel pretty in control. To be honest, I just enjoyed the last ride in this car. It’s been an absolute pleasure having the opportunity to drive the Porsche this year. Finally getting this win is something we’ve wanted to achieve for a long time, and it’s quite emotional for all of us. This is what exactly what we want to achieve; we want to prove that we can compete on exactly the same terms as everybody else and we are here to win races.Michelle Gatting
I think today, the whole GTE field put a great display on and this is what we all want to see, so thanks very much to all our competitors to keep us busy and to keep the pressure high. I think we proved today that we do not crack easily under pressure. To get this win now after five years is really emotional, and we will use it as momentum to hopefully be on the starting grid for 2024. What we always aim for is to make the team stronger. To see that we can win races with the Iron Dames in the highest level in GT racing makes me very proud. I also hope this experience is seen by the younger generation. We have younger Iron Dames coming up, this is a project I am so heavily involved in, and this makes me very proud. But nevertheless, I’m still a racer, I love to race, and I love to continue racing and do more to keep fighting for more wins.Rahel Frey