Impressive LMP3 debut for Gabriela Jílková in Prototype Cup Germany
Updated: May 4
Gabriela Jílková made her LMP3 debut in the German Prototype Cup barely missing out on a podium finish, as the Czech driver continues to impress in every car she competes in.
Misfortune in race 1 and a P12 in race 2 marked the first weekend of American Courtney Crone in the series.
Prototype Cup Germany started its second ever season of competitions: from 28th to 30th April, the series promoted by ADAC and CREVENTIC launched its season with an exciting race weekend at the Hockenheimring in Germany.
For the first time in its history, the Prototype Cup featured two female drivers on the grid: Gabriela Jílková for JvO Racing by Downforce Motorsports, and Courtney Crone, in a Gebhardt Motorsport entry.
Saturday morning saw the first 15-minute qualifying, where the 15 prototypes battled out for the best starting positions that would set the grid for the first race later on the same day.
The qualifying already was a good indicator for how the new season would start for Gabriela and Courtney as well as their teammates.
In Q1, Crone's teammate Jacob Erlbacher drove for Gebhardt Motorsport and Lucas Mauron was in the seat of the JvO Racing by Downforce Motorsports LMP3 machine. The session turned out to be disrupted by a red flag due to a car off track shortly before the end, which concluded the session ahead of time. Lucas Mauron wasn't able to finish his flying lap and had to settle with P8, while Jacob Erlbacher ended the session in P12.
Oscar Tunjo (JvO Racing by Downforce Motorsports) was the fastest on track and scored the pole position for the first race of the season.
Saturday, 2.10pm, CEST: after a five minute delay, the 2023 Prototype Cup went underway. Gabriela and her teammate Lucas Mauron started on the fourth row, a couple of rows ahead of Courtney Crone and Jacob Erlbacher.
Pole-sitter Tunjo was followed by Laurenz Hörr and Markus Pommer (Racing Experience).
In the car for the first stint, Mauron quickly overtook two cars moving up to sixth, while Jacob Erlbacher took the chance to gain P11 after a fight with two other competitors.
With 33 minutes left on the clock, the pit window opened. Mauron pitted, handing the car over to Gabriela Jílková.
Jacob Erlbacher meanwhile was pushing hard and gained two positions, landing ninth place ahead of his pit stop.
After the pit cycle, Jílková went from eleventh to seventh, and ultimately fifth.
Erlbacher entered the pits with 25 minutes left on the clock, handing over the car to Crone from P13. A very long pit stop caused by a technical problem eventually led to the team to retire the car, as Crone was out before even starting her stint.
Gabriela Jílková had a very strong stint and caught up with the fourth-placed prototype, only 0.2 seconds up the road. She would overtake on lap 25.
With around nine minutes left, an incident during the pit stop concerning Gabriela was under scrutiny and ultimately led to a drive-through penalty, with five minutes to go. The penalty demoted her from P4 to P6, where she eventually finished the race.
With a 14 second gap, Julien Apothéloz (JVO Racing by Downforce Motorsport) crossed the chequered flag ahead of Gary Hauser (Racing Experience) and Mathias Lüthen (Koiranen Kemppi Motorsport).
Gabriela Jílková and Courtney Crone were behind the wheel for the second qualifying of the weekend on Sunday morning. The American driver would start the race in P12, while Jílková put her team‘s car in fifth position, in a strong performance for the versatile Czech driver.
Valentino Catalano (DKR Engineering) secured pole position ahead of Gary Hauser (Racing Experience) and Julien Apothéloz (JVO Racing by Downforce Motorsport).
As per the rules, the drivers who qualified were behind the wheel for the start of the race: after a really good start, Gabriela Jílková fought her way up to fourth with a great pass.
Four laps in, Gabriela was already in the gearboxes of Gustavo Kyrila (BWT Mücke Motorsport) for third, which she grabbed on lap 6, also setting her personal best time one lap later.
Meanwhile Courtney fought to defend her 12th position. 32 minutes into the race, the pit window opened, allowing the drivers to hand over their cars to their teammates in the specified time window. Jílková handed the car over to Lucas Mauron and Courtney Crone to Jacob Erlbacher.
After the round of pit stops, Jílková and Mauron cycled back from sixth to third. Courtney Crone and Jacob Erlbacher held position after the mid-way stop.
In the last five minutes of the race, Mauron had a tough fight as tyre management's role became more important; he defended third place from the sister car of Oscar Tunjo and lost the podium spot on lap 30.
There was also a really great and exciting battle for the top two positions: Markus Pommer (Racing Experience) and Robin Rogalski (DKR Engineering), with the former gaining P1 with two minutes to go.
In the end Markus Pommer won in front of Robin Rogalksi and Oscar Tunjo. Mauron had to work hard in the last lap to bring home fourth place for his team.
Gabriela Jílková thus completed her first race in LMP3 just outside the podium, in an impressive first race weekend for the Czech driver, able to excel in every car she is competing in. Jacob Erlbacher and Courtney Crone finished 12th.
"First few laps this weekend starting with Qualifying this morning", Crone summed up. "Same starting spot as yesterday, and had a great start to the race. Up to 8th, brought the car back to Jacob Erlbacher where he did an awesome stint."
"Ultimately ended up P12, but I know Oshersleben will be more to our advantage."
The Prototype Cup Germany will be back on 26th to 28th of May at the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben, Germany, for its second race weekend of the season.