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It may seem short, but six years in motorsport is a lifetime. Back in 2017, a momentous decision was taken by a group consisting of former drivers and racing afficionados. What was born out of the town of Cesena in Italy has since gone on to become one of the pillars of the GT world.
But that’s just the start of the Iron Lynx journey.
Founded in 2017 by ex-racers Andrea Piccini, Deborah Mayer and with the help of Claudio Schiavoni and Sergio Pianezzola, Iron Lynx’s ascension to the top table has been as rapid as it has been impressive.
And, despite solid foundations early on, it’s taken Piccini by surprise too.
“We have, collectively, a lot of experience in motorsport but the team itself is very young,” Piccini explains.
“My business partner Sergio has a lot of experience, I myself used to race for 27 years before I stepped back last year to take over the management side of things.
“When you start doing something like this, you always aim for the top and you never put limits on what you can achieve, but I would never have thought about doing so much in such a short space of time with the team.
“We have some special investors behind us and have had the chance to find the right opportunity at the right time, it’s a small world and when you live it, you build the right relationships, and these are the things that come back eventually.”
With its origins stretching back to a debut season in Super Trofeo Europe in 2018, Iron Lynx’s association with Lamborghini has come back full circle.
Having switched to another brand when it expanded into GT3 racing, the team achieved some significant race wins and titles over the past few years.
But now it’s back with Lamborghini, back at Sant’Agata Bolognese and ready for the next chapter in its short but illustrious history.
What lies ahead of Iron Lynx and Iron Dames is a packed worldwide programme, featuring GT3, Super Trofeo and a complete LMDh testing regime ahead of an even busier 2024 season. On top of that, there’s the Formula 4 side of the outfit, the karting sub-team, the Motorsport Lab, you name it.
All of this does beg the question: how on Earth does the team manage this workload?
“With the Iron Lynx programme, it has growing bigger and bigger very quickly, so sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the work we are doing with all the projects,” admits Piccini.
“We’re now spreading all over the world, with the IMSA project, so it’s not easy I have to say.
“We have a team in America, a team here in Europe, concentrating on the future programmes while also working on the current programmes.”
The team is, therefore in an almost constant state of activity, leaving some pretty hectic weekends to say the least.
An example of just how busy the team has been during the 2023 season came back in April, when the outfit had to split their resources across five different operations. The opening round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup was held at Monza, while the Formula 4 championship ran at Imola. A karting event also took place in Italy, while over in Barcelona the team was segmented once more with two Lamborghinis competing in the Le Mans Cup and two Porsche GT3s contesting the European Le Mans Series curtain raiser.
And if reading that makes you dizzy, just imagine what it is like managing the innumerable elements required to achieve strong results.
“The team is very young, and I am very new to the role of team principal but what I have learned in this short period and very intense period is that it’s almost all about the people,” Piccini says.
“Without money, you cannot go racing but if you don’t have the right people then you can’t achieve much. So, you need good drivers, good engineers, good mechanics, good truckies, good tyre people…everyone needs to be good in the team because if you are missing one piece of the puzzle, then you can’t the best out of them.
“We spend so much time together, that we are almost like a family and that is important in getting the right spirit and work ethic.
“There are about 80 people working in the team, some are full-time, some are just for race weekends, some are consultants, freelancers but it’s a pretty big team so managing all of these people around the world is a lot of work but it’s worth it.”
Away from the track, it’s clear that the team is making waves among fans, particularly through social media. Key to this burgeoning support is the Iron Dames squad, comprised of Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting, Sarah Bovy and, for selected GT3 outings in 2023, Doriane Pin.
If you follow motorsport, you’ll surely know about the Iron Dames, and their popularity stems as much from their off-track personas and activities as their on-track successes.
The team is also formed on the Race to Inspire premise, which has given drivers like Bovy the chance to live out her passion.
“Three years ago I became part of this huge project which has certainly made me such a better driver,” reflects Bovy, who holds the record for the number of starts for a female driver at the Spa 24 Hours.
“At the beginning of 2020 motorsport was almost over for me, I had started a completely different job because I wanted to try something different, but I am quite an optimistic person and I wanted to work somewhere in motorsport.
“And that’s probably why I am here, because I sent hundreds of emails but never got a reply, but Iron Lynx responded and gave me the chance.”
For Bovy and Frey, the path to the top has often been arduous, but their perseverance and commitment to furthering female participation is the very ethos on which Iron Dames was founded.
And it’s given drivers like team-mate Pin far easier access to what has always been a male-dominated sport.
“It’s really nice to see more women in motorsport and that’s the idea of the Iron Dames and what we are trying to achieve,” says Pin.
“There are seven women that were driving in the Spa 24 Hours and that was really cool, especially in such a demanding race such as Spa, because it is more difficult than even Le Mans.
“I think teams are now also trusting girls more now as racing drivers and not just as women, because everyone deserves to be able to follow their dreams and be given the right opportunities.
Indeed, the rise of the driver dubbed “the Pocket Rocket” has mirrored that of Iron Lynx itself. The 20-year-old from Paris was still go-karting when the team moved into GT3 and was picked up as a result of the FIA Girls on Track programme and placed in the Ferrari Challenge Series.
She won that title, a year after another woman – current team-mate Gatting – also came out on top in the one-make category and has since plied her trade alongside Lamborghini Factory Drivers Mirko Bortolotti and Daniil Kvyat with aplomb in the FIA WEC this season.
“It was always one of my dreams to be able to race in FIA WEC and in LMP2, because it is one of the categories with the most experienced drivers,” she explains.
“And it’s a really good line-up with Mirko and Daniil this year and I have learned a lot as a driver so it’s very useful for the future. And next to that I have the IMSA programme with the Iron Dames and the two combinations is really good for me, because I am driving both a prototype and a GTD car and discovering a lot of new circuits.
“I think it’s complete, my programme and I am really happy to have driven some of the most famous 24-Hour races this year too.
“I’m really grateful to have been given the opportunities, we want to be up there at the front fighting for overall victories.”
And that’s where Iron Lynx aims to be in 2024, when it debuts Lamborghini’s LMDh prototype onto the world stage both in FIA WEC and IMSA.
It’ll be a steep learning curve but one which this burgeoning outfit is relishing.
“We’ve achieved success with another brand, but what we are putting into place with Lamborghini and Giorgio is quite special and important with the LMDh,” Piccini.
“This is a huge step for us, almost a kind of dream move that any team would love to be involved in with a manufacturer, not just being a team but the team.
“It will be really demanding but also really special as it’s the first time that Lamborghini enters such a high-level championship like WEC and IMSA so there is a lot of responsibility on our shoulders.
“But we will be sharing the good and the bad with Lamborghini, so we are building a good relationship, even though it was quite a late decision, but we’re getting there and looking forward to that.”
Preparations are underway, but Iron Lynx is still aiming to finish the GTWC and IMSA seasons on a high after an up-and-down campaign on both sides of the Pond this year. A pair of podiums (at Monza in Pro and Nürburgring in Gold Cup) is all it has to show for the European project despite obvious speed and potential.
The Barcelona finale is the last opportunity to take a breakthrough maiden victory with Lamborghini while the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta concludes the IMSA season in October.