Karen Gaillard claims personal best finish in MitJet series
Karen Gaillard returned to the French MitJet 2L championship after a hand injury – and what a comeback it was: at Barcelona, the Swiss racer claimed her best finish in the series to date with a P6 in Race 4.
20-year-old Karen Gaillard made her return to the French MitJet 2L championship at Circuit de Catalunya, after missing the round at Albi having injured her hand. Gaillard, who is at her debut season in the popular MitJet championship, had raced at Nogaro and Magny-Cours, where she continued to improve race after race, consistently finishing just outside the top ten in an over-40 car field. Renowned for its action-packed races with the agile and powerful machines, the Barcelona round of the MitJet championship, ran as a support category of the European Le Mans Series at Circuit de Catalunya, provided again four spectacular races – with also drivers of the likes of former F1 driver Olivier Panis and Max Salo, son of former F1 driver Mika Salo. At her first year in the sprint race format, Gaillard had previously competed only in endurance racing and is therefore pursuing a learning-oriented season with the aim of building experience in the closely-fought series. "I chose this championship for the battles, because I want to gain more experience and learn a lot this year", she told us. "It's really nice because we have four races in each weekend so it's good to learn", she continued, highlighting the good amount of track time that this format allows, on great racing venues such as Magny-Cours, Barcelona, Le Castellet. "Battles are probably what I have learned the most so far, because in my first two seasons in motorsport I only did endurance racing - and you have less battles there, it's a different approach to the races." The Swiss racer had won the Young Driver Challenge initiative in 2019 and graduated from the Endurance filiere in 2020, with the goal of one day reaching the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. With her goal in mind, Gaillard claimed podium finishes in the 24H Series, where she contested her first 24-hour races at Dubai and Barcelona in 2021 and had a very strong season in the Ultimate Cup racing for French team Vortex, where she finished runner-up. At her MitJet debut, Gaillard claimed a tenth place finish in Race 2 at Nogaro, which stood as her best finish to date before the Spanish round. In another strong field, Gaillard made significant progress after each session, ultimately claiming a P16 in the second qualifying which resulted in a start in the midfield. In the races, though, Gaillard shone: she gained five places to finish P13 in race 1 – and topped that with a P11 in Race 2, where she had also spent the first half of the race well within the top ten before slightly dropping down the order in the closing stages. In Race 3 on Saturday afternoon, Gaillard was again at the footsteps of the top-ten, after another strong start where she made up two positions – but she would end P13 once again. "I learned a lot from Saturday's races, because I started from P13 and I had a really good start – I was sixth" – she recalled. "It was my first time in such a position in this championship and I didn't quite have the pace to stay there and lost quite a few places in the race. But I worked harder on Saturday evening and now finally I had the pace to stay up there." In the final race, contested on Sunday morning before the ELMS 4 Hours of Barcelona, Karen Gaillard had in fact her strongest race to date: having climbed from P11 to P6 over the first three laps, the Swiss young talent was able to keep up the pace and battled with the front runners throughout the 10 lap race. She was eventually able to take the chequered flag in sixth position – clinching her personal best finish in the series at her return. She took top honors in the Female Trophy as well. "I'm happy because I progressed during all the weekend – it was always better and now I could finish with another top ten in this season", she told us. "I'm also happy because I was coming back from a broken hand, so returning with a top ten is good!" With now two more rounds to go in her 2021 season – scheduled for 9-11 September at Ledenon and from 14-16 October at Circuit Paul Ricard – Gaillard is thinking about continuing her development in the series into 2023. "In the long term, my dream would be to do Le Mans. For next year I don't know yet, but I'd like to do this championship again and do my best."