Czech driver Gabriela Jílková shocked the motorsport world in ADAC GT4 at Zandvoort, as she stormed through the field on Saturday to a sensational P2 together with Robert Haub. Solid racing weekend for Liesette Braams and Gaby Uljee, as well as Victoria Froß. Bad luck for Team Driverse on Saturday and Sunday.
The third racing weekend of ADAC GT4 took place at the dunes of Zandvoort in the Netherlands. After renovation work in 2020, the track is now partly new and includes two banked turns. 3,000 fans were allowed on track per day, to feel the pure motorsport action of the ADAC racing series. In terms of female racing drivers, ADAC GT4 has lately provided increasingly interesting fields.
For the brand-new Team Driverse, Charlie Martin was back after missed the last round and one of her teammates Liesette Braams was to start with team Equipe Verschuur in a McLaren 570S GT4 together with Gaby Uljee - in another all-female crew.
The first qualifying session didn't go as planned for all these teams: Robert Haub qualified the Zakspeed Mercedes AMG GT4 in eleventh place, followed by Gaby Uljee in P19 and Franjo Kovac (Vicoria Froß's co-driver) in P20. Team Driverse didn't set a timed lap in the session due to technical issues.
Marc de Fulgencio (Leipert Motorsport) started from pole and could defend his lead against the battling trio of pursuers which included Gabriele Piana (Hofor Racing by Bonk Motorsport), Marschalkowski (Team Zakspeed) and Phil Dörr (Dörr Motorsport).
Marschalkowski was one of the first drivers to came in for driver change and handed over his Mercedes to Nouet. He then hunted down Michael Schrey (who had taken over from Piana) for the lead, passed him soon after and pulled away.
Behind him, Robin Falkenbach (who had taken the wheel from de Fulgencio) and Wirth (Dörr's teammate) battled hard for P2. From this situation, Zakspeed's Gabriela Jílková emerged as the star of the race and charged through the pack: the fast lady had taken over the from Robert Haub in P8 after the pit stop and caught up quickly. Jílková drove with both her mind and her heart to pass car after car, positioning her Zakspeed Mercedes tactically and with patience until she was right behind Wirth in fourth place.
Just before the finish, Jílková finally overtook Wirth and chased Falkenbach. With a better run at the exit of the banked turn, Gabriela won the draft duel and crossed the chequered flag 0,011 seconds ahead of Falkenbach, who just let enough room, and scored P2.
"P2! One of the best days in my life! What a finish! Rob did also a great job! Thank you everyone for the support, this is just incredible!", said a happy Gabriela.
With Marshalkowski/Nouet in front and Jílková/Haub in second, it was a 1-2 for Team Zakspeed, finishing ahead of de Fulgencio/Falkenbach.
The newcomer team lining-up Gaby Uljee and Liesette Braams came home in P16 - fifth in Trophy class - followed by Victoria Froß and Franjo Kovac in 17th overall and sixth in class, after they had lost quite a lot of time in the pits during the driver change. Because of engine issues, Team Driverse - featuring Sandra van der Sloot and Charlie Martin - were not able to start the race.
The second qualifying session saw 'Quick Gabi' putting her Mercedes in P3, behind Nouet and Møller-Madsen. From 19th, 20th and 21st respectively, the female-driven teams followed: Sandra van der Sloot had a good qualifying and preceded Victoria Froß and Liesette Braams.
But the technical gremlins were not over for Team Driverse, as Van der Sloot's BMW M4 GT4 had a brake failure. Wisely, team owner Nicole Kösters and team manager Olly Brinkmann decided to retire the car on safety concerns.
"A tough weekend in ADAC GT4, despite showing strong potential, fate dealt us too many curve balls." - summed up Charlie Martin. "Everyone on Team Driverse worked like troopers, especially Nico, Anka, Claire & Tammy who worked through the night to get us running this morning. Sadly, technical problems prevented us from racing, and it was the right decision from our team principal Nicole Kösters and team manager Olly Brinkmann to retire the car in the interest of safety."
"I feel absolutely gutted. I was so pumped to race at Zandvoort, it’s an incredible track and the laps I drove felt amazing. But I fully support the team’s decision", she concluded.
Nouet started from pole and was able to stay in the lead while Jílková passed Møller-Madsen for second position right at Turn 1. Just a few laps later, Robin Rogalski (Seyffahrt Motorsport) had a spectacular accident when his Audi spat out flames, spun on his own oil and crashed. A red flag forced the cars back to the grid, where Jílková's Mercedes caught fire.
The marshals put the fire out quickly, but it looked as if it was the end of Gabriela and Robert's race: a piece of rubber had ignited and damaged a connector. The Zakspeed mechanics, with Nine at the forefront (who is also part of the all-female team Girls Only in NLS and the 24 hours of Nürburgring) were able to fix the car on the grid with an outstanding effort and amidst the deserved applauses from the grandstands.
"I was already on the way to the grid, but when Gabi radioed that it was on fire, I just ran and watched what we could do with my colleague and the AMG support.
When the bonnet was closed again, I kept going through my head to see if everything was okay and I was fully focused", Nine summed up her thought during the repair of Gabrielas and Roberts car.
After the restart, Nouet retained in the lead - but Gabriela had lost a bit of her speed on colder tyres for the first couple of laps, before she got back up to speed. Soon, a second Safety Car neutralization was necessary when Daniel Schwerfeld (Black Falcon Team Texar) and Falkenbach collided.
At the green flag, Nouet again pulled away, while Schrey was one of the first drivers to hand over to Piana. The cut worked, and he found himself right behind Marschalkowski after the round of pit stops - both battling for the lead for several laps.
Behind them, Jílková's teammate Robert Haub defended hard but fair his fourth place against Dennis Fetzer (Team Allied-Racing), P. Dörr, Jan Philipp Springob (T3 Motorsport). It would be Dörr to finish the second race on the last step of the podium, behind Marschalkowski/Nouet and Piana/Schrey, following another short Safety Car phase.
Jílková and Haub finished sixth - which meant enough points to be added to Saturday's race to save third in the championship standings at the half-way mark.
"On Sunday, I started the race from P3. Already in the first corner I got to P2. Then came the red flag. I stopped my car on the grid and a few seconds later, a fire appeared at the engine. " - recalled Jílková. "Many thanks to the Zakspeed mechanics and the support from Mercedes AMG Motorsport and track marshals who did a great job, so I was able to start in the race again."
"In the end, P6 came out of it and we take the most points from this weekend", concluded Gabriela after the weekend.
Very close were again the McLaren of Liesette Braams/Gaby Uljee and the Besagroup Mercedes of finished Victoria Froß/Franjo Kovac, who were P14 and P15 across the line. Braams-Uljee took home the trophy for 3rd in Trophy class, which obviously left home-hero Braams ecstatic.
"Really had a great weekend with lots of fun and it was good to see so many familiar faces!"
The next round will take place at the Nürburgring from 6th to 8th of August.