Célia Martin and Fabienne Wohlwend broke the streak of bad luck and fought back from a qualifying issue that left them last on the grid to charge through the field, conquering their first points of the ADAC GT4 season at Sachsenring.
Fabienne Wohlwend and Célia Martin enjoyed a breakthrough weekend at Sachsenring as the only all-female team in ADAC GT4 Germany claimed their best result of the season to date and scored their first points in the championship, fighting back from a series of misfortunes that had denied them points at the previous rounds.
Wohlwend and Martin are both contesting their rookie season in the series - one of the most competitive GT4 championships worldwide - at their first full campaign in GT4 machinery. The all-female PROsport Racing duo had to battle an often adverse BoP, a few technical issues and some contacts from other competitors throughout the first part of the season, before showing important steps forward at Nürburgring, for the third round of the season.
While the drivers of the #19 Aston Martin weren't eventually able to score points due to more bad luck, they carried the momentum into Lausitzring, where although slowed down by a difficult BoP, they made up many positions to finish P15 on track. Their first points, though, were postponed following a post-race penalty for a contact in the hectic final lap of the race.
Nevertheless, Wohlwend and Martin's performance were clearly on the rise and a first points-paying round seemed just around the corner. And the penultimate round at Sachsenring indeed turned out to be their chance to shine: it wasn't all plain sailing though, as the PROsport Racing's drivers still had to tackle several challenges throughout the weekend at the 3.671 km circuit located in Saxony.
On Friday, Fabienne and Célia had a promising start of the weekend with a P14 in the first practice session: their 1:28.271 was the second fastest Aston Martin, behind championship leaders Ortmann and Sasse. In the second session, they continued to build speed and prepared for qualifying - with Wohlwend ready to take on Q1 on Saturday morning.
"After a good test day on Friday, we started the racing weekend positively", Fabienne summed up. "In the Saturday morning qualifying, I drove a clean lap, 1.3 seconds behind first place and 0.9 seconds behind the best Aston Martin. However, in this highly competitive GT4 Germany field, it meant only 18th place on the starting grid."
Lining up from the ninth row of the grid among the strong 27 car field, Wohlwend aimed to move up the field in Saturday's race 1.
The pole sitter David Jahn (AVIA W&S Motorsport) defended the first spot from Nicolaj Moller-Madsen and David Ortmann, on a track where it's traditionally difficult to overtake on. Fabienne Wohlwend battled with PROsport teammate Raphael Rennhofer and Eric Scalvini - with whom she had an exciting wheel to wheel duel at the final corner on the first lap.
Fabienne would switch back on lap 3, then significantly closed in on Rennhofer, as she ran on a competitive pace in P18.
Having dropped to P19, Fabienne chased the #23 Overdrive Racing Porsche of Stefan Bostandjiev - and the Liechtenstein-based driver soon gained several tenths to get within the one second gap.
"At the start, I chose the outside line and lost a position, but then I was able to shine with good lap times and fight my way forward", Fabienne said, having pitted on lap 17 to hand over to Célia Martin.
Célia gained one position towards the end of the pit cycle, then overtook Max Wimmer (Wimmer Werk Motorsport Porsche) on lap 24, as the #13 green-liveried Aston made it back to the top-20. Martin settled on a good rhythm and passed the #20 Eastside Motorsport Mercedes for P19 on lap 28 - then further moved up the field when Pavel Lefterov pitted for a penalty.
Tyre degradation started to play a role but Célia Martin's lap times remained very consistent and she continued to gain on the cars ahead. Over a few laps, Martin cut the gap from 8 to 2 seconds to Simon Connor Primm - but she was sent into a spin on lap 36, which dropped her to P18.
Wimmer would receive a penalty lap for the incident, but remained ahead of Martin after serving the penalty. Several cars hit trouble with the tyres - including both the Walkenhorst BMWs and the #75 Porsche of Finn Zulauf; Célia Martin kepty it on track and crossed the finish line in P18 - equalling their best result of the season.
The result, though, was a frustrating one, as Fabienne and Martin's strong performance would have likely resulted in a top-15 before the contact.
"Race 1 was going well and I had some good fun defending with a car until we had contact which spun me round and cost us again our first point" - Célia Martin told us.
"After the race, we saw in the data that our Aston Martin had a loss of power from the seventh lap onwards", Wohlwend told us. "We replaced the control unit overnight, but unfortunately, that didn't help, and Célia had no power at all during the qualifying", she added.
Martin was in fact unable to set a single fast lap in Sunday's morning qualifying session due to the technical issue - which meant that the #13 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 would take the start from the back of the field, forcing Martin and Wohlwend to charge up the order.
"On Sunday I had a technical issue in Quali meaning I couldn’t do a lap and had to start at the back" - explained Martin. "The team from PROSport Racing worked really hard to get the car fixed and back on the grid for Race 2."
While it was yet another adversity to overcome, the two PROsport Racing drivers never gave up and were ready to fight back.
A Porsche 1-2-3 led the pack at the start, with Jannes Fittje and Finn Zulauf having a good start, followed by the 27 entries of ADAC GT4. From the back of the grid, Célia Martin gained four positions over the first lap and passed Sokolovskiy, Schaak, Robinson and Rauer. Martin continued to move up and grabbed P22 on lap 4, as she set competitive lap times during the first stages of the race. Célia then overtook Michal Makes' #54 Project 1 BMW as she closed in on the top-20 after only 6 laps - showing good speed at the wheel of the #13 Aston Martin after the difficulties of qualifying.
One lap later, Martin was already up to P19 - but then battled with the recovering Makes, losing a bit of ground to Max Wimmer's Porsche ahead.
With 36 minutes to go, the red flag was deployed when Dominique Schaak crashed in the fast downhill section at turn 11. Schaak was aided by the medical personnel but was luckily uninjured.
The race went back underway under safety car conditions - before cars accelerated away on lap 17, with Fittje and Zulauf leading Sasse, as the latter passed Still. Célia Martin held P20 and the pit window opened soon after the green flag. PROsport Racing kept Célia out a few more laps and she climbed the order, running as high as seventh before she took the way of the pit lane on lap 23.
"I really enjoyed the start and all of my stint moving up from P26 to P15 with some nice overtaking on a track where it’s hard to do so", Célia said.
Now behind the wheel, Fabienne Wohlwend slotted into P15 as a result of a clean stop by the PROsport crew. Several cars were hitting trouble as they picked up punctures - including David Jahn, who was battling for the lead with Mike David Ortmann. Wohlwend battled with Eric Scalvini and Maxime Oosten for P13 - and she claimed two positions when Wassertheurer hit trouble with yet another puncture.
With 12 minutes to go, Wohlwend ran in P12 and continued to chase Scalvini by a couple of tenths. "After a good race start, we were able to fight our way forward.", Fabienne continued. "Right after the restart, I took over the wheel and brought the car to the finish line in 12th place after some tough battles."
"I'm very satisfied with my performance, the pace in qualifying, and also my duels. I'm also happy that after all the bad luck in the last races, we finally scored some points. We want to build on that."
Fabienne Wohlwend and Célia Martin brought home the first points of the season in a remarkable recovery from 25th on the grid: the all-female team gained 13 positions to secure their best result in GT4 to date, finally breaking the bad luck streak that had hampered most of their season to date.
"So happy and thankful for the entire team that we could finally get the result and some points" - Martin said. "We have been close to it for the last few rounds, but had so much bad luck. Coming away from another new track for me with a P12 and really good pace is great motivation and confidence heading into the last round."
The ADAC GT4 Germany series will head to Hockenheimring for the final double-header of the 2023 season on 21-22 October, where Célia Martin and Fabienne Wohlwend will aim to build on the speed and consistency shown at Sachsenring.