GT-CER: Amrouche and Vinyes take class wins, Martí claims double podium at GT4 debut
Multiple female podiums at the opening round of the GT-CER Spanish Endurance Championship: Solenn Amrouche claimed a back-to-back class victories and overall podiums, while Amalia Vinyes made a spectacular return to the series with two dominant class wins. BMW Spain's rising star Nerea Martí also secured two podiums at her GT4 debut.
The opening round of the 2023 GT-CER at Circuit Navarra turned out to be a rather successful one for the many female drivers on the grid.
The Spanish Endurance Championship in fact featured five women competing across the different classes: Solenn Amrouche (GPX), Ana Sainero (PC), Amalia Vinyes (Clase 1), Nerea Martí (GPR) and Alba Vazquez (D4).
F1 Academy driver Nerea Martí made her GT4 debut at Navarra, one year after her closed-cockpit first races, when she first joined the first factory-effort for BMW Spain, sharing the BMW M2 CS Racing with José Manuel de los Milagros. From the BMW M2 CS Racing to the brand-new BMW M4 GT4, the young Valencian has now taken on a new challenge in the Spanish series.
Having made her racing car debut in 2019, Ana Sainero has since then raced in GT3 cars in the Spanish Endurance Championship: at Navarra, Sainero shared the Porsche 991-2 GT3 Cup with Rafael Muncharaz in the PC class.
French young driver Solenn Amrouche was back behind the wheel of the Vortex V8 car, alongside her father Lionel Amrouche. The French team was coming off remarkable class victories in the Ultimate Cup at Le Castellet as well as at the 12H of Mugello in 24H Series.
Solenn was therefore eager to keep the momentum for the small yet resilient manufacturer.
Solenn has committed to the whole GT-CER season with Vortex and is aiming to continue her quick progression in sports car racing: having first raced in Mitjet cars, Amrouche has then moved to Porsche Cup and is now contesting her first couple of races with Vortex, making consistent improvements
Returning to racing after a year hiatus was Amalia Vinyes. The Andorran is certainly no touring car rookie, having collected race wins and national titles since 2010. Vinyes, a three-time championship winning driver in the Spanish Endurance Championship in 2010, 2013 and 2014, is also an expert rally driver, with many national starts to her name.
With several seasons of experience in TCR with the Baporo Motorsport outfit, Vinyes was reunited with the team in an Audi RS3 LMS SEQ, in a solo effort.
Young Spaniard Alba Vazquez, 19, made her car racing debut last in CET, the Spanish Touring Car Championship, where she scored six podiums over 5 race meetings, also making series' history by becoming the first woman to take victory. She would ultimately finish third in the drivers' standings, claiming the Female Trophy title.
Vazquez has now stepped up to GT-CER, in a Renault Clio Cup V shared with Ivan Hernandez Gonzalez in the D4 class.
Amrouche topped the timesheets in the Vortex V8 for GPX class pole position, third overall, behind the two fast Escuderia Faraon Porsche 992 GT3 Cup cars. The Vortex had fast laps also in free practice, often ending in the top three overall.
Amalia Vinyes started off a spectacular weekend by leading in class throughout every single session, almost 2 seconds per lap faster than her closest rivals in Clase 1. She claimed both pole positions in class and managed to break in the top-10 overall in Q2 - faster than a few GT4 entries.
De los Milagros and Martí were respectively third and fourth in their qualifying sessions, in a particularly close GT4 field that saw the two Mercedes AMG GT4 operated by NM Racing Team emerging as the cars to beat at Navarra. After the rain on Saturday, teams found a dry track on Sunday.
In the first of the two 48 minute + 1 lap races on a sunny yet chilly Sunday morning, Sainero started the first stint in the #108 Porsche GT3 Cup from fifth overall and fourth in class - and soon moved up to second place overall, having passed Lionel Amrouche in the #101 Vortex, which still led GPX. Moving up to fifth overall, de los Milagros had a spectacular start and clinched GPR lead, with three cars in between his closest class rival.
The Audi R8 GT2 of Daniel Carretero, though, navigated through the field and took GTX class first place by passing the Vortex a few laps later, then hunted down the Escuderia Faraon's overall leading Porsche 992 GT Cup of Fontes, eventually making a move stick on lap 5.
Having started from pole position in D4, Alba Vazquez's teammate Ivan Hernandez lost the top spot to Eric Zabala, but positions were restored on lap 9, as Hernandez switched back. Amalia Vinyes also comfortably held the Clase 1 first place during the opening stages.
The Skualo Competicion's Porsche of Henk Van Zoest came to a halt - sparking a few pit stops - with 26 minutes to go. Jose de los Milagros pitted on lap 12 - as well as Ana Sainero and Amalia Vinyes. Nerea Martí started her first stint of the season in GT4 machinery, rejoining in the class lead after the #164 Audi R8 GT4 also pitted.
Alba Vazquez took over the #37 Clio Cup V with 20 minutes to go, one lap before the driver change for the #101 Vortex which saw Solenn Amrouche getting behind the wheel.
After the pit stops, Amrouche was second in GPX, Martí led GPR, Vinyes led Clase 1, the #108 of Sainero - with now Rafael Muncharaz behind the wheel - sat fourth in PC class and Alba Vazquez was third in D4.
With 10 minutes to go, the #115 Mercedes AMG GT4 of Jan Duran managed to get ahead of Nerea's BMW M4 GT4, as the young Spaniard dropped to seventh overall.
The Safety Car was deployed soon later, when David Garcia's Ford Fiesta hit trouble.
The race went back to green with less than 2 minutes to go; Sanabria and Yeregui battled for the outright win, as the #111 Porsche had closed back in on the fast Audi R8 GT2. The race leader spun and hit the barriers, opening the door to the second Escuderia Faraon Porsche of Pablo Bras - who would take the lead on the final lap of the race.
After the off-track by the #111 Audi, Solenn Amrouche re-claimed the GPX class lead and third overall; the race neutralization on the other hand, was bad news for Nerea Martí, as the fast Mercedes AMG GT4 of the NM Racing Team could secure a 1-2 in GPR.
Amalia Vinyes took a dominant win in Clase 1 and was eighth overall, in a spectacular performance for the Baporo Motorsport driver. Muncharaz and Sainero were fourth in PC. Comfortably third throughout her stint in D4, Alba Vazquez was unfortunately involved in a crash on the final lap of the race. She was luckily unharmed, but the damage sustained ruled them out for the remainder of the weekend.
Later in the afternoon, the 33 cars lined up on the grid for Race 2, with the overall Escuderia Faraon Porsches, victorious in race 1, sharing the front row.
Solenn Amrouche would start from the third slot and first in GTX, while Nerea Martí was in the #172 BMW M4 GT4 for the first stint, eighth overall and fourth in class. Amalia Vinyes was chasing another class win from Clase 1 pole.
Amrouche defended third overall from the #111 and #114 Porsches, but eventually lost the GPX first place to Carretero. Martí overtook the #125 Porsche 718 GT4 of Lorenzo Mendieta, moving up to third in class; the F1 Academy driver also broke in the overall top-10, but had to close a 9 second gap to the two NM Racing Mercedes AMGs.
Carretero passed the two Porsches of Bras and Sanabria on lap 6 and soon opened a gap - in a repeat performance of race 1. Muncharaz spun in the #108 Porsche 991 GT3 Cup he shares with Ana Sainero, but rejoined the race albeit having dropped to fifth in class.
When the pit window opened, Solenn Amrouche and Nerea Martí handed over their cars on lap 11 from second and third respectively. With Lionel Amrouche behind the wheel, the #101 Vortex held second in GPX, while Martí's teammate de los Milagros had to recover from fourth in GPR. A lead change after the pit stops saw the #117 Escuderia Faraon Porsche grabbing first place from Pablo Yeregui - just before the Safety Car was deployed for the stricken #6 Ford Fiesta of Vergara.
The neutralization allowed Jose Manuel de los Milagros to catch back the GT4 leading NM Racing Mercedes; the green flag, though, waved again only for the final two laps. Amidst chaos during the SC procedure, the #117 Escuderia Faraon Porsche took overall victory, ahead of Lionel and Solenn Amrouche, who claimed back to back victory in GPX and another overall podium.
"I shared the wheel as a family with my father, Lionel", Solenn told us after the weekend.
"It’s always a pleasure and a joy to drive with your family, especially when the results are so satisfying!"
"For the first race of the championship, we were P3 overall and P1 in our category and to finish on the second race, P2 overall and P1 in our category. We couldn’t dream of a better weekend", she continued.
"I realize how lucky I am to be part of this incredible world of automobiles."
De los Milagros had not enough time to recover positions in GPR and, alongside Nerea Martí, the BMW Spain Motorsport drivers claimed two class podiums in a positive GT4 debut.
“It has been a weekend of first contact, since it was the first time that we drove with the new car, we have obtained a lot of information that will be useful for the next races", Nerea explained.
Ana Sainero had to settle for fifth after Rafael Muncharaz's spin at the end of the first stint, while Amalia Vinyes was once again unchallenged in Clase 1, completing a remarkable weekend at Navarra.
"I'm back!", she wrote. "Positive weekend at the Navarra circuit, getting pole positions and victories in both races! Thanks to Baporo Motorsport for the great work".
The next round will be in Portugal at the Autódromo do Algarve on May 6 and 7.