Gabriela Jilkova crowned GT Winter Series champion in Aragon
"QuickGabi" lived up to her nickname and clinched both the race win and the GT Winter Series title in the season finale at Motorland Aragon.
After a perfect weekend in Portimao two weeks ago, Czech racer Gabriela Jilkova returned behind the wheel of the Zakspeed Mercedes AMG GT4 for the third and final round of the 2021 GT Winter Series.
Following to two opening rounds in Algarve, the 12 teams moved in fact to Spain, at the Motorland Aragon venue. Jilkova lapped her first laps around the 5.078 km track on Wednesday, as she completed testing together with teammate Robert Haub.
The qualifying sessions for the two scheduled races were set to get underway on Thursday morning, but a thick layer of fog prevented the series to start the sessions. The green flag was finally waved over 2 hours later and cars went on track for the open track day – which also became valid as qualifying for the afternoon's races.
Haub signed the fastest lap of the Zakspeed duo and put the #48 Mercedes in second position overall, behind the #11 Schnitzelalm Racing Mercedes AMG GT4 driven by Marcel Marchewicz. The second fastest times shaped the grid for Race 2, with Marchewicz again setting pole position in the top GTS-class car that featured a technical upgrade compared to Jilkova-Haub's version.
One hour after qualifying, Robert Haub got in the car for Race 1: the American racer had a good start and found himself battling with the recovering GT3 cars that had started just behind. While Marchewicz went on to win in commanding style, Haub did well and was an unchallenged second in class, crossing the finish line fourth overall. He was then promoted to third after the #41 MS Racing Porsche GT2 RS CS of Pettersen Berg received a 185-second time penalty for track limits and was demoted to sixth.
Gabriela Jilkova returned in the driving seat for the second and final race, contested in the late afternoon. Starting again from second on the grid, the race had major drama already in the formation lap, when Jilkova's closest rival in the #11 Mercedes pulled over to the side of the track with technical troubles.
When the lights went out, Jilkova covered the inside into Turn 1 and held the overall lead. The Czech lady drove a brilliant race and fought hard with the #41 Porsche GT2 of Pettersen Berg. On the second lap, the driver leading the Cup R class made the move for the overall leadership on the long back straight preceding Turn 16, where Jilkova could do nothing against the impressive top speed gap.
Gabriela managed to stay close though, and proved to be remarkably faster in the driven first and second sectors. Forcing her competitor to a small mistake into Turn 12, Jilkova went back into P1 but struggled to keep the Porsche behind on the fast straights.
Despite the tight battle, they would extend their gap to the third-placed Porsche GT3 Cup car of Tim Hendrikx in the #991 Laptime Performance entry by almost 2 minutes.
Jilkova set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 8, with a 1:57.288 that was over 2 tenths quicker than the Cup R class fastest car – and over 11 seconds faster than second-placed GTS competitor.
The 25-year old driver from Prague pushed hard and tried to claim the overall win but, after clinching the top spot one more time in the closing stages, she had to settle for second due to the straight-line speed disparity.
Pettersen Berg claimed the overall victory and Jilkova was second across the line, first among the GT4 drivers. She would then receive a 135-second time penalty for track limits which demoted her to fourth overall but still gave the Zakspeed duo the GT4 win.
Their consistency throughout the season ultimately resulted in Jilkova and Haub being crowned both class and overall champions: with 115 points, they preceded Sartingen and Schwerfeld in the points standings.
Jilkova, who is also a known simracer and has specialized in the iRacing platform in the past two years, has previously competed in the 24H Series, in the Renault Clio Cup Central Europe and Formula Renault NEC series. She was part of the 2019 all-female F3 championship W Series selections, and went on to win a race in the W Series Esports League in 2020.
Her return to GT4 machinery widely proved that she also belongs to real racetracks and, hopefully, we will get to see more of her throughout 2021.