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Impressive comebacks for Jílková and Gudet at Spa-Francorchamps in GT4 Europe

Gabriela Jílková and Cindy Gudet overcame a challenging start of the weekend to achieve impressive comebacks and secure valuable points in both races at Spa-Francorchamps in the GT4 European Championship, claiming a pair of top-10 finishes in ProAm by gaining 17 and 13 positions overall.

Gabriela Jilkova, Cindy Gudet, Matmut Competition Toyota GR Supra GT4, GT4 European Championship, 2024 Spa Francorchamps
Photo credits: SRO/JEP

Gabriela Jílková and Cindy Gudet had a challenging yet rewarding weekend at Spa-Francorchamps in the GT4 European Championship: the all-female Matmut Competition duo made successful comebacks in the two races, gaining 17 and 13 positions overall to finish twice in the ProAm top ten.

Despite a bumpy start of the weekend, Jílková and Gudet managed to make the most out of their equipment on what turned out to be an unfavourable track, still scoring valuable points with a seventh and a tenth place finishes.

GT4 specialist Jílková and sportscar rookie Gudet - a multiple French hillclimb racer now quickly showcasing her talent also on racetracks - had a strong start of their GT4 Europe campaign, in arguably one of the most competitive fields globally. At the season opener in Paul Ricard, they immediately climbed the podium with a remarkable third place finish, then followed by a seventh place in race 2.

The second round at Misano World Circuit brought another top-five, although an unfortunate race two resulted in a DNF following a contact mid-way through the race.

Nevertheless, both drivers had shown plenty of speed in an over 50-car field, often separated by tenths of a second.

As the series headed to the iconic Spa Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, in a supporting event to the famous 24 Hours of Spa, Jílková and Gudet aimed to keep momentum.

The duo built speed over the practice sessions, making improvements in the pre-event tests; they would record the 20th time in ProAm in the official session and the 15th fastest time in the pre-qualifying session.

Gabriela Jilkova, Cindy Gudet, Matmut Competition Toyota GR Supra GT4, GT4 European Championship, 2024 Spa Francorchamps
Photo credits: SRO/JEP

Gabriela Jílková then took the wheel for the first qualifying session on Friday morning, securing P14 in ProAm with a time of 2:28.672. Despite a strong effort, all Toyotas appeared to struggle, likely due to an unfavorable BoP.

Cindy Gudet drove in the second qualifying session, initially placing P6 in ProAm with a solid first run before a red flag was brought out due to Machado's Aston Martin crashing with 8 minutes remaining. Gudet ultimately finished P11 with a time of 2:29.949, not far off the top ten in class.

In the evening race, the sun set scenically over the Ardennes as cars lined up on the grid. Gabriela Jílková started the first stint with a mostly clean start, moving up to P13 in class and gaining several positions overall. By the start of lap 3, she had moved up to eleventh, passing the #90 Toyota Gazoo Racing Sweden and several Silver class entries.

Jílková engaged in a close battle with Paul Petit and pressured the #75 AV Racing Porsche, aiming for a top ten position. A contact between the #300 Audi and the #56 Ginetta resulted in a Full Course Yellow, with Jílková stuck behind the Porsche in P11.

The safety car came in on lap 12, and the pit window opened. Jílková stayed out longer than most, clocking fast laps and eventually pitting on lap 14 from seventh in ProAm. This strategy paid off as Cindy Gudet rejoined in P9 in class and within the overall top-20.

Gudet managed her stint well, holding off faster cars and making up places by capitalizing on battles behind her. By lap 17, she was up to seventh and opened a small buffer. On the final lap, Gudet had to defend against the #317 Chazel BMW M4, losing seventh place by a mere 0.061 seconds. However, a penalty for the #317 reinstated their P7 finish, marking a successful race with 17 positions gained.

Gabriela Jilkova, Cindy Gudet, Matmut Competition Toyota GR Supra GT4, GT4 European Championship, 2024 Spa Francorchamps
Photo credits: SRO/JEP

On Saturday morning, despite rain forecasts, the track was dry. Cindy Gudet started from P11 in ProAm, with strong potential for another top ten finish.

Most of the over 50 cars in the GT4 European Championship navigated the tricky La Source hairpin unscathed, but a crash involving Florent Grizaud's Aston Martin brought out the safety car. Gudet had retained the eleventh spot in the opening lap.

As the race resumed, Cindy followed ST Racing's Samantha Tan but then fell behind the #21 BMW M4 GT4 of Fabian Duffieux on lap 6, mostly due to the Toyota GR Supra’s struggle with straight-line speed.

Gudet pitted on lap 11 from eleventh, handing over to Gabriela Jílková, who rejoined in P14 in ProAm just before another full course yellow. As per procedure, the safety car was deployed, bunching up the pack for the final minutes of the race.

Jílková was on a mission and again managed to recover, passing Hellsten's Nova Racing Porsche for P13, and then gained another position on the final lap, finishing P12 in class. Post-race penalties promoted her to P10, with the team gaining 13 positions overall and therefore securing another top ten in class.

"Driving on a legendary track like Spa-Francorchamps with 55 cars racing was once again a rich learning experience," said Gudet. "Gabriela and I gave it our all on track after a lackluster qualifying session and made two comebacks in the midst of many battles on the track!"

It was another strong performance for the all-female duo of the Matmut Evolution team, who had solid, mistake-free runs and maximised their equipment on this track. Emerging from a challenging round with two top ten finishes in class was certainly a commendable effort, which Gudet and Jílková will be trying to build upon at the next round - which is scheduled for 19-21 July at Hockenheimring, where they will aim to return in the fight for the podium positions.

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