Comeback and P4 in class for Gabriela Jílková in GT4 Europe at Spa
While a clutch issue prevented Gabriela Jílková and Robert Haub to take part in the first race at Spa Francorchamps, the ZVO Drago Racing duo had a strong comeback on Saturday, when Haub survived an incident-filled start and Jílková had strong nerves in the final stages to bring home a fourth place in GT4 Europe.
The biggest event of the weekend - the 24 Hours of Spa - was supported by some equally spectacular series like GT4 European Championship, with a record field of 55 cars on the Belgian track thanks to the GT Scandinavia entries joining the action.
Among the driver pairings in Spa-Francorchamps were the Czech-American duo Gabriela Jílková and Robert Haub (Drago Racing Team ZVO) who are contesting their first full season in the European championship and battling for top-five and podiums in the ProAm class three rounds in.
The Belgian weekend started with a first practice session cancelled after a few minutes, when Gustav Bard (#278 Race Team Gelleråsen by AFR) crashed into the barriers and the repairs took longer than expected. All cars were therefore not classified at the end of the session.
The difficulties continued in the second practice session, which was red flagged and called before time had run out - but teams could at least complete a few laps around the iconic track. Sancinena (Autosport GP) was fastest, before the session was interrupted by yellow flags for the Aston Martin of Lyngbye Pedersen (#18 Team Spirit Racing) who had made contact with the barriers. The session subsequently ended early again. Robert Haub finished in P22 overall, but showed good pace ahead of the important qualifying sessions.
Not that the qualifying session was without troubles either: despite another red flag interruption, though, drivers still could put in some timed laps in Q1 and Q2 and an Alpine set pole for both races: Antoine Leclerc (Villiger, Code Racing Development) was fastest in a six car battle, before Antoine Potty made contact with the barriers and brought out the red flag, losing his fastest lap. The session wasn´t restarted with 3:30 minutes on the clock.
Gabriela Jílková qualified P21 overall and P11 in ProAm class for race 1 on Friday evening. Robert Haub was P14 overall and P5 in class, also in a red-flagged session. Simon Tirman (Sancinena) snatched pole for race 2 on Saturday morning.
Unfortunately, Race 1 was over even before it started for Gabriela Jilková and Robert Haub: "Unfortunately after qualifying we had a problem with the clutch and we have not been able to fix it", she wrote. "We don't start in race 1."
The race was won by Antoine Leclerc and Loïc Villiger after some tough competition for the Alpine duo, who could still bring home their first win of the season ahead of Potty/Monti (CMR) and Meyuhas/Bastard (Sainteloc Racing).
Race 2 on Sunday morning was redemption time for Gabriela Jílková and Robert Haub. The team had done a great job in solving the clutch issue and the duo was able to start the race. But it was not an easy start for Robert Haub, as he had a very close call at the start: right ahead of him, several cars made contact, spun and went off in the gravel at La Source; Haub was both skilled and lucky to avoid contacts and continue the race.
The SC was out for quite a long time before the race went green again - with the pit window opening for driver change approaching. Robert Haub handed over the #4 Drago Racing Mercedes AMG GT4 to Gabriela Jilková, who would tackle the field from 11th overall and 3rd in class following the opening stint.
But the race wasn´t green for long, as the #278 Porsche stopped at Blanchimont with a technical issue. Gabriela Jilková was a bit under pressure from Rappange (Herremans, V8 Racing) and dropped back to 4th in class, also having to endure the pressure of Gachet (Debard, AKKODIS ASP Team).
The race was back for one green lap and Gabriela Jilkóvá needed strong nerves to defend her position after the field was bunched up by the Safety Car. Up ahead, cars were all over the place and the Czech driver gave it her all and did a great job in bringing home a fourth place finish in ProAm and P11 overall. She was again close to a class podium and scored important points towards the championship after the unlucky first race.
Overall winners of race 2 were Meyuhas/Bastard (Sainteloc Racing), ahead of Ortmann/Sasse (PROsport Racing) and Ibanez/Joulie (NM Racing Team).
The next round of GT4 European will take place from 2nd to 4th September at the German venue of Hockenheimring. Gabriela Jílková and Robert Haub are currently 8th in the championship standings of the Am-Pro class, with 46 points after a strong rookie season in one of the most competitive GT4 series worldwide.