top of page
  • Writer's pictureRACERS

Karen Gaillard kicks off Ultimate Cup season with top-5 at Paul Ricard

2023 Vice-champion on her prototype debut, Karen Gaillard made her return to a quality European Endurance Prototype Cup field for the start of her double-campaign alongside her Iron Dames GT3 program - and a fifth place in class at the 4 hour of Paul Ricard represented a solid start for the Swiss racer.

Karen Gaillard, DIMAB by ANS Motorsport, Ultimate Cup, 2024 Paul Ricard
Photo by: Davy Delien

Young Swiss racer Karen Gaillard had a positive start to her Ultimate Cup season - one of her two racing programs for 2024. Gaillard has in fact just joined the prestigious all female Iron Dames program and will be part of a new line up together with Célia Martin at the wheel of the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo2 in the Michelin Le Mans Cup - effectively making her GT3 racing debut in April at Barcelona.

At the same time, Gaillard made her return to the prototype category - renamed European Endurance Prototype Cup in 2024 - after a remarkable debut in 2023.

The 22 year old in fact took on her first season in prototype racing and drove the DIMAB by ANS Motorsport Nova Proto NP02 prototype, a 400hp machine with performance almost comparable to LMP3. Gaillard took four class podiums - including a second place at her first race - out of six rounds, eventually finishing runner-up in the championship.

Returning to Le Castellet - a circuit where she had good success in the previous season and that traditionally hosts the opening and closing rounds of the series - Gaillard would be again representing DIMAB by ANS Motorsport, at the wheel of the #71 Nova Proto machine, this time shared with Marc Faggionato and Iko Segret.

In an extended field that now sees some of the top endurance teams and experienced drivers joining the series, a total of 31 prototypes were entered for the 4 hours of Paul Ricard, including 19 NP02 cars. On the first test day on Thursday, the Gaillard-Faggionato-Segret trio showed good speed and were consistently in the top five in class.

The official practice turned out to be a bit more tricky, but the drivers entered qualifying realistically aiming for a top-five start in the NP02 class.

Gaillard contested Q1 and her 1:59.283 lap placed her seventh fastest overall and third in class - in a very promising start for the Swiss reigning Vice-Champion.

Her teammate Faggionato was 20th overall and 12th in class in Q2, while Segret managed a 13th overall and seventh in class in Q3; the combined times put the #71 DIMAB by ANS Motorsport red-white-and-black machine seventh in NP02 and on the seventh row of the overall grid.

Marc Faggionato took the start of the 4 Hour race for the #71 crew, as the top NP02 cars mingled with the LMP3 cars. A multi-car accident at the first chicane took out two Norma prototypes and left several others wounded - including LMP3 class front runner Axel Gnos in the #1 Virage. Faggionato managed to avoid the accident, although he lost a couple of positions in the process and dropped to P14 overall and eighth in class, as the race was neutralized.

The green flag waved 10 minutes into the race and Eric Trouillet led the NP02 class, second overall behind the Ligier of Cédric Oltramare. Faggionato settled in his rhythm in P10 in class, then moved up to ninth, showing better pace than a couple of cars ahead.

A big crash on the Mistral straight at the 30 minute mark brought out another safety car; this was an opportunity for most of the NP02 field to pit for the first time. This strategic move dropped him to 14th in class - as the top five opted to stay out.

Faggionato progressively climbed back to P11 as the first hour approached - and Karen Gaillard got ready to jump in the car to officially start her racing season.

After cycling up to seventh during the round of pit stops, Faggionato brought the #71 Norma back to the pits on lap 31, handing over to Gaillard.

The Swiss driver rejoined in eighth place and soon set the car's best lap in 2:02.338, then progressively improved by almost a second - clocking a 2:01.489 in her charging drive. Seventh in class and overall, Karen was faster than the #73 Norma driven by Rodolphe Rosati and overtook him on lap 44. With 2 hours and 20 minutes to go, the NP02 class leaders pitted - and Gaillard also stopped from third place - after one of her trademark stints.

With several cars on different pit strategies, Gaillard rejoined ninth in class - but continued to be faster than most NP02 cars. After a shorter stint, Gaillard handed the #71 prototype back over to Marc Faggionato, who settled in sixth place overall and fifth in class with now 1 hour and a half left on the clock.

Iko Segreto took over with a little over one hour to go, following the team's sixth stop.

Loris Kyburz (#8 Norma) led the race - albeit on one less pit stop - almost a lap clear of Luis Sanjuan and Ian Aguilera - the first placed among the LMP3 cars.

A few laps into his stint, Segret was back in the pits twice to complete the minimum number of mandatory pit stops and, having set the new team's fastest lap, he had to make his way up from 15th overall, 9th in class.

Segret ran at a very steady pace and made up positions as the teams ahead wrote off their final pit stops. The French driver made it into the top five with 15 minutes to go - once every NP02 team had completed the 7 stops. While he lost a few places overall in the closing minutes due to the recovery of some LMP3 cars, Iko Segret crossed the finish line in ninth overall and fifth in class after the 4 hour curtain-raiser, which made for a very solid start of the season for Karen Gaillard and her teammates.

"First race of the year in Ultimate Cup Series done", Gaillard commented. "P5 out of 19 in class. Not exactly the result we expected but we’ll work hard to come back stronger", she continued. "The level is very high this year which is great and will make us progress!"

"Many thanks to the whole ANS Motorsport team and my two teammates Iko Segret & Marc Faggionato for all the work done during this weekend."

While the second round of the European Endurance Prototype Cup will see the series making a trip to Portugal's Algarve International Circuit on 24-26 May, Karen Gaillard will now focus on her GT3 debut for Iron Dames on 13th April.



bottom of page