GTWC: Reema Juffali breaks new ground at Hockenheim
Charging from sixth in class to finish less than two seconds from the podium in race one in Hockenheim, Reema Juffali translated this pace into pole position for race two, when she became the first female driver to claim pole position in GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup.
Reema Juffali has become the first female driver to claim pole position in GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup after a stunning lap at Hockenheim. The Theeba Motorsport driver showed excellent pace throughout the weekend alongside Fabian Schiller, with a best result of fifth in the Bronze Cup class unrepresentative of the duo’s speed.
Charging from sixth in class to finish less than two seconds from the podium in race one, Reema translated this pace into pole position for race two.
The team looked set for a podium finish in race two, however Theeba Motorsport were blocked by a rival in pit lane which led a significant loss of time, finishing ninth in the Bronze Cup class.
Reema was pleased with her personal performance but rued the bad luck which went the team’s way, stating “I'm very happy with pole today. It really shows we’re progressing well but unfortunately, we didn’t have much luck in the race. More than one thing didn’t go our way; for the Safety Car restart there was a slow car ahead of us, in the pit stop we were blocked, and we just lost too much time. I’ll still have good memories looking back at Hockenheim.”
Reema and Theeba Motorsport have made great strides across their first season in GT World Challenge Europe and were looking to continue this into the next round of the Sprint Cup at Hockenheim. After finishing 11th in the Bronze Cup in the opening dry test session, Juffali and Fabian Schiller showed their speed in mixed conditions in the first practice session on Friday by placing second in class. Valuable data was gathered in pre-qualifying with Reema behind the wheel of the Mercedes AMG GT3 to place the team 11th in the Bronze Cup.
The first qualifying session of the weekend was held on Saturday morning with Fabian in charge of driving duties for Theeba Motorsport. Consistently challenging towards the front of the Bronze Cup class, Schiller’s best time came on his final lap of the session and placed the duo second in class, also firmly within the top-half of the overall classification in 14th.
Fabian took the start for race one and drove an excellent first lap, positioning the car well to make up five overall positions to move into ninth, while remaining second in the Bronze Cup class. A safety car shortly followed and although Schiller lost two on-track positions following the restart, these were drivers in a different class and the Theeba Motorsport racer remained second in the Bronze Cup when a second safety car was called on lap 11.
When racing resumed, this coincided with the opening of the pit window and with the team looking to maximise Fabian’s stint, he remained on track and set a number of fast lap times to run as high as third overall as he handed over to Reema second in the Bronze Cup class.
A small issue in the pit stop meant that Reema dropped to sixth in class when the pit sequence was completed, however her immediate pace was encouraging in relation to her Bronze Cup class rivals.
Running just half a second behind the Garage 59 McLaren of Miguel Ramos, Juffali was sizing up a move on her competitor with the Bronze Cup leaders running nose-to-tail. On lap 27, Reema briefly moved ahead of Ramos before being shuffled behind her rival and fellow McLaren driver Patryk Krupinski. Determined to make up positions in the closing stages, Juffali re-passed Krupinski on lap 28, before overtaking Ramos on lap 29 to move inside the top-5 in the Bronze Cup class.
Finishing just two tenths of a second behind Philipp Sager and less than two seconds from the podium, Reema showed fantastic speed in race one and she was looking to carry this forward into Sunday morning’s qualifying session.
The second qualifying session took place on Sunday morning with Reema aiming for her best starting spot of the season. Maintaining her speed from race one, Juffali sat seventh in the Bronze Cup class at the halfway point of qualifying. Determined to improve in the closing stages, Reema set a superb lap time to secure pole position in class, also beating a number of Silver class competitors in the process. This was maiden pole in the history of Theeba Motorsport, with Juffali being the first ever female driver to claim pole position in the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup.
Lining up on pole position for race two, Reema ensured she made a clean start and although dropped to fourth in class, remained on the tail of her Bronze Cup class competitors. A safety car was deployed at the end of the opening lap, with Juffali looking to display her speed in the remainder of her stint.
Despite losing out to Miguel Ramos on the restart, the Theeba Motorsport driver applied significant pressure to the Garage 59 driver, remaining three tenths behind her rival at the end of lap 11. Overtaking proved difficult despite Reema’s best efforts and when the pit window was opened, she pitted immediately to hand over to Fabian Schiller.
Misfortune then struck as Theeba Motorsport were blocked in pit lane by Emil Frey Racing which led to Schiller losing a considerable amount of time and being detached from his rivals, with the prospect of a safety car being the only realistic hope for Theeba Motorsport to challenge for a podium result.
Nevertheless, Fabian’s pace was comparable to the race leaders and although falling to ninth in the Bronze Cup class, he continued to push in order to make up for lost time. With no safety car period in the closing stages, Schiller took the checkered flag in ninth position which was not reflective of the pace the duo had shown across the weekend.
Reflecting on the challenges faced, Fabian commented, “Race 2 was very unfortunate for us with another issue at the pit stop. It wasn't our fault but more the fault of a competitor. The second part of the race was straightforward for me, I did my stint and it felt like we had potential for a good result.”
This weekend at Hockenheim marked another momentous achievement for Theeba Motorsport as Reema took pole position which made her the first female driver to do so in a GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup event. Juffali consistently displayed frontrunning speed and is gaining confidence with each outing in the Mercedes AMG GT3.
She will be hoping to translate this into season’s best results in less than two weeks’ time when the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup heads to Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia.