Class podium at debut for Gabriela Jilková in GT4 Europe at Nürburgring
Czech racer Gabriela Jilková is quickly climbing the ladder of GT racing: having made a storming debut in ADAC GT4 Germany, Jilková and co-driver Robert Haub made their first start in GT4 European Series at Nürburgring - claiming their first class podium.
Photo by Andrea Benedetti
The fifth round of the top-GT4 racing series in Europe - GT4 European Series - headed last weekend at Nürburgring, with a new addition on the grid as guest starter: Czech racing driver Gabriela Jilková, who is rapidly climbing the ladder of GT racing after a hiatus from real racing in the past few years, when she focused on simracing and created a growing fanbase. Once returned to the track, Jilková has turned heads and impressed in a variety of race cars and series, which brought the young woman - together with co-driver Robert Haub - to the very competitive ADAC GT4 Germany championship. Last weekend they hopped back into their Zakspeed Mercedes AMG to gain more experience in GT4 machinery - as a long gap between the ADAC rounds allowed them to take on a new challenge: the continental GT4 series. In a packed grid of 42 cars, Jilková and Haub entered in the Pro-Am Cup, battling 13 other cars in class. The first practice at the Nürburgring GP layout - a new track for the duo - was contested by Jilková, who finished in P29 overall - seventh in class - and focused on learning the secrets of the track. It was Gus Bowers (#32 United Autosports McLaren) to record the fastest time, 0,268 seconds faster than the second guest Zakspeed Mercedes #13 of Jan Marschalkovski and the #22 Allied Racing Porsche of Nicolaj Møller Madsen. In the second practice, Robert Haub got behind the wheel and brought the #19 Mercedes to 14th overall and P3 in class. In the afternoon session, we saw a new team on top of the timing sheets, with Tom Canning (#55 Aston Martin) snatching the fastest lap ahead of the #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG driven by Jim Pla - followed by the #13 Zakspeed Mercedes, this time with Theo Nouet behind the wheel. The pole position in Q1, valid for the first race on Saturday, went to #23 United Autosports McLaren of Voisin, ahead of the #17 V8 Racing Chevrolet by Thijmen Nabuurs and Marschalkowski in the #13 Zakspeed Mercedes. Haub put the Mercedes in P34 overall and tenth among the Pro-Am, as a mistake in his fastest lap cost him a start higher up the order. Nevertheless, the duo was ready for the challenge later in the day for the one-hour race with driver change. In Q2, the #32 United Autorsports McLaren of Dean Macdonald led the field ahead of Jim Pla in the #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG and Charlie Fagg (#23 United Autosports McLaren). Jilková was 18th overall and P4 in Pro-Am class, setting the starting grid for the second race on Sunday morning: "To be honest I‘m really happy." - she said. "Our first race ever at Nürburgring in the hardest GT4 series." Pole sitter Voison (#23 United Autosports McLaren) defended his lead at the start of the race, followed by Bowers (#32) and Marschalkowski (#13), but the second-placed McLaren of Bowers went wide and Marschalkowski took over the second position. Voisin managed to pull away from Marschalkowski, until the pit stop window opened and Nouet, who took over the Zakspeed Mercedes from Marschalkowski, came out in the lead after the pit stops. Fagg, who was now behind the wheel of the #23 car, tried to attack the Zakspeed entry throughout a couple of corners, but Nouet could not be bothered and took the chequered flag in first place, ahead of Fagg and Macdonald. Haub drove the first stint and was on fire: starting from P33, the American was quickly up to P28 and passed more cars to reach P26. He had a big moment with another car that spun after a light contact, but no investigation was necessary. After the driver change, Jilková managed to finish the race in P8 in class, 20th overall. "We gained 13 positions. Tomorrow is a new day and we‘ll come even stronger", commented Jilková, who was happy after their first outing in the series. On Sunday, it was a 1-2 for the United Autosports crews, with Macdonald leading from pole position ahead of Fagg and the #87 Mercedes of Jim Pla. The leading trio pulled away from the rest of the field. The McLaren was unreachable: both the crews came in for the driver change and rejoined 1-2 again, with Bowers (#32) trying to put pressure on the #23 of Bailey Voisin and push him into a mistake - unsuccessfully. The gap between the two was just 0,328 seconds as Bowers took the chequered flag for the final race of the weekend. Saturday's winners Nouet/Marschalkowski were third, ten seconds behind. Jilková started the second race from P18 overall; the Czech lady lost ground at the first corner as she was forced wide, but was quickly back to her starting position. Once the pit window opened, she stayed out and pushed for a few laps more before handing the car over to Haub just before the pit window closed - putting them back out in 14th overall. In the second half of the race, Haub battled out in a group of 4 cars, fighting over 12th to 15th place. Ahead of this group, a contact between a few drivers that took a trip into the gravel promoted Haub and Jilková to P10 overall across the finish line - which gave them their first class podium at just their second race in the series, among a strong 41-car field. "YES, WE DID IT!" - a happy Gabriela Jilková wrote on Instagram. We will see Gabriela Jilková back in action at the next ADAC GT4 Germany weekend at Sachsenring, from 1st to 3rd October - always at the wheel of the Zakspeed Mercedes AMG GT4.
Photo by Andrea Benedetti