Back to back podiums for Gabriela Jílková and Lucile Cypriano in FFSA GT4
The Matmut all-female crew had a remarkable weekend in Dijon-Prenois, where Gabriela Jílková and Lucile Cypriano took back-to-back podiums in FFSA French GT4.
The all-female "Volant 100% Feminin" initiative by Matmut enjoyed its best weekend to date in the FFSA French GT4 championship, as Gabriela Jílková and Lucile Cypriano scored back-to-back podium finishes at Dijon-Prenois. French insurance Matmut launched the project in 2023, as part of its efforts to increase the involvement of women in motorsport, showing young female motorsport enthusiasts that opportunities exist and are growing. The first all-female crew in the French GT4 series was therefore born from a shootout selection, where drivers were picked from a pool of six female talents that tested with the team at Circuit Paul Ricard as well as Barcelona in late 2022. Expert GT4 racer Gabriela Jílková and Lucile Cypriano emerged as the winners, as they would team up at the wheel of the #16 Toyota Supra GT4 in a ProAm entry. With experience of GT Winter Series, ADAC GT4 and GT4 Europe, Jílková made her debut in the FFSA series at Nogaro in the traditional Easter weekend, where alongside 26 year-old Cypriano - a very versatile racer herself, with a background in formulas, touring cars as well as rallying - they claimed their first class podium at debut. While they would miss the rostrum at Magny Cours, the two drivers of the Matmut Evolution team were determined to make up for it at Dijon-Prenois, home of the legendary duel between Gilles Villeneuve and René Arnoux in the 1979 French GP. Jílková and Cypriano set fast times straight from free practice, where they steadily ran in the overall top ten out of a 35 car field and in the ProAm top five. Jílková secured the 9th place on the grid (P6 in class) in the first qualifying session and Cypriano kept momentum with an equally strong 12th place overall and third in class in Q2 - which was a highly promising start to their Dijon weekend.
Gabriela Jílková was behind the wheel of the #16 Matmut Toyota Supra GT4 for the first stint of race 1, lining up on the fifth row of the grid following her 1:22.367 in Q1. Victory Weyrich (#92 Racing Spirit of Leman Aston Martin) led the pack into turn 1 after an action-packed first lap around the fast and undulating circuit de Dijon-Prenois. Jim Pla followed in second, while the Toyota of championship leader Enzo Joulié (#9 Matmut Evolution) dropped from second to fourth. Jílková tried to avoid contacts in the first lap and had to give up a few positions, dropping to 12th overall and 8th in class; the Czech driver, though, was fast and started to put pressure on the Porsche GT4 of Nicolas Prost - who she would overtake on lap 3. The #87 Toyota driven by Jim Pla meanwhile had taken the overall lead after a clean pass under braking at turn 1 over the #92 Racing Spirit of Leman Aston Martin of Weyrich, also chased by the #42 Sainteloc Audi of Guilvert. Having regained sixth in class, Jílková battled with Lessennes and Panciatici for the overall top-10. An accident at the final corner for the #43 Porsche of Navarro required the deployment of the Full Course Yellow with 46 minutes to go, which became a Safety Car a few laps later. The neutralization bunched up the field again and Jílková, sixth in class and 11th overall, had her eyes set on a recovery before the pit stop phase. The green flag flew once again with 36 minutes to go, with Pla perfectly managing the restart ahead of the battling Palette - who overtook Weyrich - and Guilvert. Once the pit window opened, Jílková started to climb the order by staying out; she would pit on lap 22 from seventh overall and sixth in ProAm, handing over to Lucile Cypriano. Jean-Luc Beaubelique emerged as the overall leader, followed by the #41 BMW of Florian Teillais and the #9 Toyota of Etienne Cheli. After the pit stop cycle, Cypriano had gained two positions, slotting in fifth in ProAm. With 19 minutes to go, there was drama for the overall leader: a tyre failure sent the #87 Matmut Toyota of Beaubelique into the gravel - triggering another Safety Car. At the restart, Cypriano made up another position overall, moving up to eighth having passed the Am entry of Alain Ferté. With great pace, Lucile completed a spectacular pass on the #42 Sainteloc Audi of Hamon and clinched third in ProAm with 9 minutes to go. Cypriano was faster than the cars ahead and caught up with Cabirou and Teillais, potentially battling for second in the closing minutes of the race. Ricardo van der Ende (#17 L'Espace Bienvenue BMW) took overall victory after passing Cheli with 4 minutes to go, with Villagomez finishing third. Despite a close fight for second on the last lap with the #41 VSF Sport BMW, Cypriano claimed a brilliant third place in ProAm - in the team's second podium finish of the season.
After stepping on the podium on Saturday, the all-female Matmut Evolution crew was eager to repeat the result on Sunday's race 2; starting from P12 overall, Lucile Cypriano was in fact again in contention for a ProAm podium. Racing Spirit of Leman's Mateo Villagomez took the early lead at the start by passing Olivier Jouffret's Mercedes - also preceding the #11 Toyota of Etienne Cheli, who got past Corentin Tierce's Alpine. Lucile Cypriano lost a few places on the first lap, having been squeezed in a big group of cars entering the first corners. Down to sixth place in class, she settled in P17 overall, in a very busy midfield. Ricardo van der Ende had a spectacular charge and took the lead of the race on lap 9 after two brilliant passes on Cheli and Villagomez, bringing the #17 BMW M4 GT4 to the top of the leaderboard. Cypriano, meanwhile, was fighting for ProAm positions in a train of cars that included Tellais, Beaubelique, Huteau, Hamon and Servol. With steady pace, Cypriano took advantage of the battles and moved up to 14th, fourth in ProAm. The pit window opened with 35 minutes to go and most of the ProAm crews pitted. Lucile Cypriano extended her stint by one lap, then handed over to Gabriela Jílková on lap 20 from fourth in class. Jílková managed to get past Romain Carton for third in class and climbed the overall classification as well, getting closer to the top 10. Benjamin Lessennes took over the leading BMW and kept first place overall, despite the Aston Martin of Weyrich and the Toyota of Jouilé going one lap longer with the pit strategy. Just a few seconds ahead of Jílková, a three car battle between Pla, Hurgon and Basso ended in contact, but everyone kept it on track; Pla gained two places but, second in ProAm, he had over 20 seconds to close to catch class leader Eric Tremoulet. Jílková was faster than the #29 Porsche of Mogica ahead and gained over three seconds, before Mogica hit trouble and parked with technical issues on lap 41 - handing Jílková the overall top 10. Van der Ende and Lessennes took overall victory, ahead of the Racing Spirit of Leman Aston Martin of Weyrich/Villagomez and the #9 Toyota of Joulié/Cheli. Fifth overall, Tremoulet was victorious in ProAm, followed by Jim Pla and Gabriela Jílková - as the Matmut 100% Volant Feminin team scored their second podium of the weekend. Gabriela Jílková and Lucile Cypriano showed speed for the ProAm top three in every race so far and, with three podiums out of six races as well as four top-5 finishes, they currently sit fourth in the drivers' championship standings, with 65 points on the board. As the series reached its half-way point, the fourth round will be held at Val de Vienne on 7-9 July.