Akkodis ASP and Matmut launch fully-female project in FFSA GT4 France
Akkodis ASP and Matmut will launch an all-female driver project for the 2023 season in FFSA GT4 France, having held a first selection test at Paul Ricard with six female drivers in order to find the fastest duo. Here are the six candidates.
Another extremely interesting all-female team in sports car racing is set to see the light of the day in 2023, as teams and sponsors are increasingly realizing the potential of similar projects after notable examples are taking the world of GT racing by storm. Akkodis ASP, together with Matmut, will be launching their all-female line up for the next FFSA GT4 France championship. In order to select the driver pairing, a shootout with six female drivers was held at Paul Ricard in October, with Célia Martin, Gabriela Jílková, Karen Gaillard, Lucile Cypriano, Carla Debard and Line Piguet getting behind the wheel of the Mercedes AMG GT4. With their CSR-engagement in motorsport, Matmut is teaming up with Akkodis ASP to create a team to support women in the sport - not just in the driving seat but also aiming for a greater involvement of female fans. From 2023 on, the team will bring a fully-female duo to the French GT4 series, with full support from Matmut. The goal of the program is to support the two drivers to the maximum and reach the top of the series, with a step by step approach that will allow them to collect experience during the first season. Le Volant Matmut 100% Féminin – this is the name of the project – will also aim to create more opportunities for young women in the motorsport industry, showing "young female motorsport enthusiasts that opportunities exist and are growing" – the team stated. The action plan started in October with the shootout test at Circuit Paul Ricard. Two drivers will be announced – likely towards the end of November – and will receive all necessary support in pre-season and in-season to improve and develop their skills. They will have daily coaching as well as high-level training together with the rest of the team's crews.
Meet the candidates
Célia Martin, from France, started racing quite late in her career but soon became one of the most promising female racers in GT4. When she discovered the Nürburgring Nordschleife – one of the world's toughest race tracks – she knew that was her place and became a Ring-Taxi driver, succeeding iconic figures such as Sabine Schmitz and Claudia Hürtgen. In 2018, she became factory driver for Jaguar and then entered her first 24H of the Nürburgring race in 2019. She would win in the SP8 class in 2021, in an all-female effort. Martin currently competes in the Nürburgring-based NLS, in GT4 machinery. Czech racer Gabriela Jílková had collected experience in single-seaters before moving to touring cars and GTs, including outings in the 24H Series. An avid sim racer as well, Jílková was part of the W Series selections in Almeria in late 2019, before focusing her efforts in GT4 machinery: her quick rise in Europe's most important championships saw 'Quick Gabi' storming to GT Winter Series titles before taking podiums in ADAC GT4 and equally remarkable results in GT4 Europe in 2021 and 2022. Young talent Karen Gaillard stepped up to race cars in 2019 and graduated from the Endurance filiere in 2020, with the aim of advancing her career in sports cars. She would claim podium finishes in the 24H Series in 2021, where she contested her first Dubai 24H. Gaillard also raced in the Ultimate Cup, before moving into the highly competitive French MitJet 2L championship. The Paul Ricard selection was her first proper run in a GT4 car. Having begun her career in karting, Lucile Cypriano moved into formula cars in the 2013 French F4 championship. But it would be in touring cars that the Frenchwoman made headlines, as she raced in highly-ranked series such as the Scirocco Cup Germany, Seat Leon Eurocup – and was the first woman to enter a round in the TCR International series in 2015. After rounds of the Porsche Carrera Cup France, Cypriano has primarily focused in rally competitions – before the return to the track at Paul Ricard. With a background in horse riding, Carla Debard made her debut in motor racing in 2021, as she entered the FFSA French touring car championship, at the wheel of a BMW M2 CS Racing. Racing, though, was in the family DNA, as her father had won the French GT championship in 2009. After a learning season, Debard returned to the French touring car championship in 2022, again at the wheel of the BMW M2 – impressing with strong results and fifth place in the championship standings. Swiss driver Line Piguet has over 15 years of experience in racing competitions, with victories in hill-climb races, slaloms, rallies as well as Formula Fords. Nowadays, her main activity is coaching in GT cars in track days, club racing and driving experiences.
At Le Castellet, all the candidates had access to coaching and a good amount of track time – at least 30 laps – in the Mercedes AMG GT4.
Auto insurer Matmut is an established brand in the world of motor racing and has supported Akkodis ASP (formerly known as AKKA) since 2019 in the French GT4 series. Alongside their motorsport commitment, Matmut Group has a history of supporting female-oriented initiatives for inclusion, especially in traditionally male-dominanted industries.
“We have been involved in motorsport for many years, but next season will be a premiere for us", commented Christophe Bourret, chairman of Matmut Group.
"Matmut is pleased that this commitment is bearing fruit, which carries the full meaning of our impact sponsorship program 'The VERY Collective Sport', which aims, among other things, to achieve greater equality in sport."
"We are already carrying out numerous campaigns within the Group to promote gender equality. We will know how to stand alongside the drivers to give them the opportunity to win and improve their performance. We can't wait for this new adventure to begin!" – Bourret continued.
Today's Akkodis ASP comes from the fusion of Akka Technologies and Modis Akkodis.
After successes in the Clio V6 Trophy Europe and later in the Porsche Carrera Cup France – including 9 titles between 2003 and 2010 – the team made its first GT3 appearance in 2011 under the banner of ASP. Since 2015, they have collected over 30 international and national titles and won this year's edition of the 24h of Spa for the first time.