ADAC GT4: Wohlwend & Martin gain positions to finish both Zandvoort races in the top-20
"We are moving in the right direction" - Fabienne Wohlwend and Célia Martin gained several positions in the two Zandvoort races to secure their first top 20 finishes of the season in the highly competitive ADAC GT4 Germany.
Both at their first full-season of GT4 competitions, Célia Martin and Fabienne Wohlwend joined ProSport Racing for their rookie campaign in the highly competitive ADAC GT4 Germany - arguably Europe's top national series in the rapidly burgeoning world of GT4 racing.
With plenty of experience at the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife - where her adventure in motor racing effectively took off - Frenchwoman Célia Martin is discovering the secrets of the other circuits in this learning-oriented season in the ADAC-promoted championship aboard of the #13 Aston Martin Vantage GT4. Martin shares the car with Liechtenstein's most famous racing driver: Fabienne Wohlwend.
Before racing in the all-female W Series championship - where she finished twice sixth in the championship standings, collecting three podiums and a pole position - Wohlwend had made a name for herself in Ferrari Challenge, with two runner-up places in the championship and a world title at the Ferrari Finali Mondiali in 2018, in a historic moment that crowned her as the first ever female champion in the series.
Since then, Wohlwend has raced in GT cars mainly at the Nürburgring, with a third and a second place in class at the 24 Hours race; her first full season in GT4 Germany is therefore also a learning season: at the curtain raiser in Oschersleben, Wohlwend and Martin - the only all female team in the championship - were P21 and P23, and aimed to steadily and progressively climb the order in the second round at Zandvoort.
In a sunny weekend at the Dutch seaside venue, Martin and Wohlwend made significant improvements and enjoyed a very positive weekend, marked by promising pace, recoveries during the races and lots of learning opportunities.
The 27-car field made for exciting yet often hectic racing; several red flags interrupted the action in the first qualifying session contested by Wohlwend. Fabienne - who was running in the midfield in the timing screens - saw her fastest lap neutralized by the red flag and, once the session resumed, she was left just outside the top-20 for the grid of race 1.
"In my qualifying on Friday evening, there was a red flag in my fastest lap, and the qualifying was briefly interrupted", she summed up. "After the red phase, I went from 14th to 22nd place, which was my starting position for Race 1 on Saturday morning."
From the 11th row, Fabienne had a good start and navigated through the chaotic first lap to slot into 20th place, gaining two positions. An accident just outside of turn 3 then took out the #9 Overdrive Racing Porsche and the #22 Allied Racing Porsche, requiring the intervention of the safety car. The two AVIA W&S Motorsport Porsches of poles-sitter David Jahn and Daniel Gregor led the pack.
At the restart, Wohlwend battled with Max Kronberg (AVIA W&S Motorsport Porsche); the two traded positions but Fabienne eventually got back ahead on lap 10. The ProSport driver gained a few tenths to the car ahead - the #26 Allied Racing Porsche of Tom Kieffer - before the pit window opened and a few cars dived in the pit lane.
Wohlwend extended her stint and climbed up to P12. The Liechtenstein-based athlete was running on competitive lap times and was the the last driver to pit before the window closed, from seventh overall. Célia Martin then took over the reins of the #13 Aston Martin and, with 23 minutes to go, she rejoined in P21.
After the round of pit stops, Martin made up one position over the #24 Wimmer Werk Porsche - and she gained one more spot when the #6 Porsche of Ivan Ekelchik suffered a tyre puncture. Despite tyre performance's dropping, Martin recorded her best sector times but had a 17 second deficit to Connor Primm ahead.
Her recovery was temporarily halted by a Full Course Yellow with 9 minutes to go, when the #35 Walkenhorst BMW came to a halt after a contact at turn 1. The race went back to green with 6 minutes left. The #13 ProSport Aston Martin of Célia Martin was placed under investigation for speeding under the FCY; despite a 15 second penalty, she took the chequered flag in P18 and kept the position once the penalty was applied, with several other cars incurring in the same issue. The ProSport all-female crew had gained four places from their starting position and thus clinched their first top-20 finish of the season.
"I got off to a good start and was able to overtake two competitors in the first lap", Wohlwend recapped. "After a longer safety car phase, I was able to continue attacking and make up positions. We decided on a late driver change, and my teammate Célia then drove the car to a good 18th place."
The second qualifying session of the weekend followed on Saturday evening; Célia Martin got behind the wheel but a more challenging session for the Frenchwoman meant that the #13 ProSport entry would have to line up from P26 on the grid on Sunday.
The full field made it unscathed through turn 1 - but the same couldn't be said about turn 3, after the #35 Walkenhorst BMW of Sami Matte Trogen made contact and then ended his race a few corners later in the gravel, eventually bringing out the safety car.
Célia Martin survived a contact with the #84 Mercedes of Steinmetz on the opening lap and took the restart with 48 minutes to go in P25.
The French driver gained a position at the restart and then battled with Patrick Steinmetz for P23. In the lead, Bulatov had Gabriele Piana glued to the back of his BCMC Mercedes, as the two pulled away from Benjamin Lessennes and Simon Connor Primm.
With 35 minutes to go, the 10 minute pit window opened; Célia Martin stayed out for an extra lap, having moved up to P16 in between the pit stop cycle.
Fabienne Wohlwend took over the #13 Aston Martin and rejoined in P24, now chasing the #12 Toyota of Cedric Piro. Trouble for the #22 Allied Racing Porsche of Alexander Hartvig - who had to pit again with a puncture - moved Wohlwend up to P23, as she set the fastest lap for the #13 Aston.
After the pit stop cycle, Wohlwend gained one further position on lap 25 following a mistake by the #9 Overdrive Porsche - then moved into the top-20 in the final minute of the race.
Lenerz/Bulatov took victory in race 2, over 22 seconds clear of the #34 Walkenhorst BMW and the #31 AVIA W&S Motorsport Porsche.
"Despite contact at the beginning, Celia was able to drive a good stint before handing over the car to me at halftime", Fabienne summed up. "Thanks to an optimal pit stop, I was able to make up further positions and steadily improve my race pace to finish in 20th place overall."
With a P20, Wohlwend/Martin gained 6 positions in race 2 to round out a solid weekend at Zandvoort, in a double top-20 at only their second weekend in the series.
"In summary - we have made progress, but with only 2 free 45-minute training sessions on the tires from the last race, it was difficult to use the new tires properly in qualifying", Wohlwend explained. "The Balance of Performance was not optimal for Aston Martin this weekend, which hindered us in terms of top speed, while our manufacturer competitors did not stress the tires as much during the 1-hour race."
"Nevertheless, I am satisfied with my race pace and driving style", she added. "We are moving in the right direction, even though 18th and 20th place are not yet the goal we are working towards."
While the ADAC GT4 Championship will be back on track on 5-6 August for its third round of the season, Fabienne Wohlwend and Célia Martin's next racing commitment will be the 6-hour race at the Nürburgring as part of the Girls Only team, on July 7-8.