Gabriela Jilkova keeps GT4 title, Schreiner charges to two class victories
Female victories were again many in the GT WInter Series season finale at Barcelona, as Gabriela Jílková was crowned GT4 class champion, Carrie Schreiner charged through the field to win two races from last on the grid and Nerea Marti was close to seal her first overall title in her first season in closed-wheel racing.
The season finale of the 2022 GT Winter Series championship proved to be a real thriller, with female drivers among the protagonists in the class and overall standings.
GT Winter Series – a championship aimed at preparing the teams and drivers' full time programmes via a short calendar spanning from the winter months on European's warmer racetracks in Portugal and Spain – had a female overall champion in 2021 and, one year later, two young women entered the final round with championship ambitions.
Gabriela Jílková, 26, returned to full-time international racing in 2021, having spent a few years mainly in simracing and with one-off appearances in the 24H Series. After a new partnership with Zakspeed Racing and teammate Robert Haub, Jílková claimed the GT4 and overall titles in the 2021 GT Winter Series – and went on to compete in ADAC GT4 with remarkable results.
Jílková and Haub also entered a round of GT4 Europe, with the aim of competing full-time in 2022 with a double program in Germany and at continental level.
The quick duo were announced as part of the newly-founded zvo Racing team for the upcoming campaign and, at the wheel of a brand-new Mercedes AMG GT4, they tackled a second season in the Winter Series with the aim of getting good mileage out of the new car – and defending the title.
Joining the championship was also Nerea Marti: the young Spaniard was making her touring car debut at the wheel of the BMW Espana Motorsport's entry in the M2 CS Racing category. Marti had in fact raced in F4 Spain in 2019 and, at her debut in the F3 Regional-based W Series, she finished fourth in the standings and as best of the rookies.
One of the most exciting up-and-coming female talents worldwide, Nerea Marti is also venturing into closed-wheels territory – and her first season in the BMW M2 was arguably just as impressive as her single-seater progression: sharing the #81 car with experienced racer José Manuel de los Milagros, Nerea claimed her first podium at the first round and climbed the top step of the podium at Estoril, one race meeting later.
With two more victories at Jerez, Nerea Marti entered the Barcelona season finale as the class and overall championship leader, while Jílková – who had scored a perfect weekend at the third round with three race wins in GT4 – was also back in the overall title fight.
Joining the almost 40-car field at Circuit de Montmelo, was also Carrie Schreiner, sharing the Schnitzelalm Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 in the GTR class with Peter Terting.
The weekend started under the pouring rain on Saturday and adverse weather again marked the start of race day on Sunday, when the qualifying session was postponed by over one hour due to the fog. When cars hit the track, though, Gabriela Jílková was fastest in GT4 by over 3 seconds, putting the #1 Mercedes in fifth overall and in class pole position. Peter Terting qualified third in GTR and De Los Milagros was second in the BMW M2 class.
In the following 10-minute qualifying, most cars went on the slick compound but struggled for grip. On the very final attempt, Robert Haub clinched another GT4 pole position, as Carrie Schreiner and Nerea Marti were respectively third and second in GTR and BMW M2.
The weather conditions worsened after qualifying and the first sprint race went underway in the heavy rain. Hasse-Clot (Bullitt Racing) took the overall lead while Manuel Teixeira spun at turn one in the Radical prototype; Gabriela Jílková safely completed the first lap retaining the class lead and fifth place overall, before the Safety Car neutralized the action for the stricken car of Guisarsson on the main straight.
Nerea Marti, at the wheel of the #81 championship-leading BMW, held second in class and P13 overall, while Peter Terting could not take the start for a technical issue that halted the Mercedes AMG GT3 before taking to the starting grid.
At the race restart, Hasse-Clot pulled away amidst the cloud of water spray; Jílková's leadership in GT4 was never under threat, as she battled with a few GT3 and Cup entries ahead, until the KTM of Drexel closed in on the final laps. She was nevertheless able to defend the position and took a controlled class victory.
Nerea Marti was also battling with cars in the higher categories, finishing 12th overall and second in the BMW M2 class. Marcel Marchewicz took an important win in class in the #11 Schnitzelalm Racing's BMW, gaining points in the overall championship fight.
Robert Haub got behind the wheel of the #1 Mercedes AMG GT4 for the second sprint race, as well as José Manuel de los Milagros and Carrie Schreiner. The young German was the absolute star of the competition, climbing the order over the first six laps and gaining the GTR class lead from P33 on the grid.
Haub was flawless in GT4 and brought home another class win, steadily within the overall top-10. De los Milagros had a great start in the #81 BMW and was looking strong to close the gap with the fast #11 BMW of Marchewicz, but the Spaniard was unfortunately never close enough to challenge the class leader and held second.
Antonio Teixeira led the overall race in the LMP3 Ligier, followed by Gudmundsson and Manuel Teixeira. The latter was soon caught by Carrie Schreiner, who lapped almost two seconds faster than the prototype. After a great battle, Schreiner made a move stick for third overall.
Antonio Teixeira won with an impressive 58 second lead over Gudmundsson and Schreiner - who claimed a dominant win in GTR.
The final race of the weekend – and of the season – saw Gabriela Jílková, Nerea Marti and Carrie Schreiner all starting the first stint of the 45-minute endurance race, now contested in fully dry conditions.
The 40-car field all went past the first corner cleanly, as Jílková maintained the GT4 class lead and an overall top-5 among prototypes and GT3 entries. Schreiner had another unreal first stint, gaining 13 positions during the first lap alone and climbing to GTR lead over the course of four laps.
Overall championship contender Nerea Marti took the start from second in class and kept the position, as Marcel Marchewicz pulled away in the #11 BMW.
Nerea took the way of the pit lane when the pit window opened, handing over to José Manuel de los Milagros. 20 minutes into the race, both Carrie Schreiner and Gabriela Jílková comfortably led the GTR and GT4 categories, respectively in fourth and seventh overall.
Schreiner pitted and handed over to Terting with 24 minutes left on the clock – just before the Safety Car was deployed: the #979 Porsche of Netzbandt had in fact stopped in the gravel at La Caixa corner, overturning the strategies of the teams that had already stopped for their driver change.
Jílková seized the opportunity and stopped under the Safety Car, as Robert Haub got behind the wheel of the #1 Mercedes. Terting and de los Milagros, on the other hand, were down to third in class after the dust settled.
The Safety Car had meanwhile picked up a handful of GT3 cars ahead, leaving the two race leaders in the prototypes a full-lap advantage over the pack. In these hectic stages, de los Milagros lost a lap to Marchewicz/Sander.
At the green flag, Terting charged back to first place in GTR, passing the Ferrari of Lopez on lap 17 and moving from eighth to fourth overall.
Manuel Teixeira traded places with Antonio Teixeira for the overall lead and ultimately won the race, as the latter entered the pitlane on the final lap.
Robert Haub had to defend hard and lost the GT4 lead with one minute to go, as Koslowski made a pass at the very end of the race. With a second place and two race wins, though, Gabriela Jílková and Robert Haub sealed the GT4 class title once again – ahead of their GT4 Europe campaign in a few week's time.
Carrie Schreiner and Peter Terting – at their first race as teammates – claimed another win in GTR from last on the grid. Carrie will announce her 2022 racing plans in the coming days.
After a solid first season in touring cars, W Series racing star Nerea Marti was so close to the overall title, but was still able to add more podiums to her resumé and continue the learning curve in the BMW M2 race car. She will also contest the Spanish Endurance Championship with BMW Espana Motorsport, alongside the W Series campaign.