Podium finishes for Jílková and Martí in first GT Winter Series round in Portimão
The first event of the GT Winter Series in Portimao was a success for both the female starters, reigning champion Gabriela Jílková and Nerea Martí – at her touring car debut – who secured podium finishes in their respective classes.
While most motor racing championships are coming to an end and entering the – increasingly shorter – winter breaks, a few series are approaching their first rounds: it certainly is the case for GT Winter Series, a growing platform aimed at preparing for the main programmes in the most important GT championships around Europe. The Gedlich-promoted series kicked off at Portimao, Portugal, for the first of the 4-scheduled rounds of the "Endless-Summer" program, with two female racers on the grid: reigning-champion Gabriela Jílková (GT4 class) and W Series rookie of the year Nerea Martí (BMW M2 CS Racing Winter Series). 2020 winners Gabriela Jílková and Robert Haub went on to complete a remarkable rookie campaign in the ADAC GT4 championship following their Winter Series title and returned to defend their crown in a brand-new Mercedes-AMG GT4 by Drago Racing Team ZVO, again competing in the GT4 class. Completely new to touring cars was Nerea Martí – the 19-year-old Valencian driver had in fact only competed in F4 Spain and W Series prior to her debut in touring cars last weekend. She shared the #81 BMW M2 by BMW Motorsport Spain with experienced driver José Manuel de los Milagros Viñegla, in the BMW M2 CS Racing Winter Series class. The 2021/2022 event calendar is impressive: after Portimao, Estoril, Jerez and Barcelona will follow – each round featuring two qualifying sessions, two sprint races and one endurance race. With 33 cars on the grid, the two qualifying sessions got underway on Sunday morning: Jedlinski/Basz (Olimp Racing) took the overall pole for Race 1, while Scheider/Stengel (10Q Racing Team) scored the top position in Q2. Gabriela Jílková was close to the lead in Q1, but was beaten for GT4 pole by Theo Oeverhaus (CV Performance Group), who scored both pole positions in class. Robert Haub was 4th in his session. In the BMW M2 Cup category, De los Milagros Viñegla and Nerea Martí were first and second placed in qualifying, with Marchewicz/Sander (Schnitzelalm Racing) narrowly faster than Nerea in Q2. Both sprint races saw an exciting battle up front, with some close racing: Karol Basz (Jedlinski/Basz) won Race 1 and Geddie (Geddie/Geddie) took honors in Race 2. Timo Scheider, in fact, could not make the start from pole position. In the GT4 class, Oeverhaus was unbeatable; he won both races in impressive fashion. In Race 1 Gabriela Jílková was able to follow him and remained on his tail for a while, but couldn't get close enough to the young German driver following a gearbox issue in the second part of the race. In the end, Jílková slowed down significantly but still managed to bring home an impressive second place. In the second race, Robert Haub was forced to start from the pitlane due to repairs, but he fought his way through the field up to P5 at the chequered flag. Nerea's teammate De los Milagros was behind the wheel in Race 1 and led from pole throughout the race to take home the first victory for the first BMW Spain official team in the BMW M2 Cup class. Nerea Martí had a very solid racing debut and crossed the finish line in a strong second place, securing her first podium at her first participation. "I am very happy with the evolution of the weekend and the improvement in each session", said Nerea after the event. "We did a good team work after qualifying and we had the lead into the races." The endurance race started with a pass for the overall lead, as Daniel Schwerfeldt (Black Falcon) overtook the pole-sitting car and pulled away from the field – until a Safety Car halted the action. His teammate Sartingen then slipped behind the two GT3 cars behind him and they would eventually finish third. The overall victory went to Jedlinksi/Basz, ahead of Jim and Glynn Geddie.
The GT4 class saw once again Oeverhaus on top of the leaderboard, ahead of Gabriela Jílková and Robert Haub, and Christian Gisy (Racing One) in third place.
With the first weekend mainly serving as a testing ground for the brand-new Drago Racing ZVO team, Gabriela and Rob were not unhappy with the result: "Defending the title in the GT Winter Series is not easy, mainly because there is a lot of even competition this year, including the drivers from the DTM Trophy, but I think we had a great debut", said Jílková.
Nerea Martí and José de los Milagros Viñegla led the opening stages of the race and then finished second in class in the endurance race behind winners Marchewicz/Sander after a strong performance. Nerea got behind the wheel 22 minutes into the race and drove consistently to the chequered flag.
With a special points' format, which primarily takes into account the number of starters in the different classes, it is not the fastest driver overall who receives the most points, but the driver who has shown the best performance across the highly competitive environment. That means Oeverhaus is now the leader of the GT Winter Series 2021/22.
Nerea Martí and José de los Milagros are currently sitting in second place in the class standings, just four points behind the leaders.
An experienced racer in such competitions, José de Los Milagros specially highlighted Martí's progress: "In her first participation, she is already in contention to fight for pole positions, victories and fastest times. It seems that she has spent all her life competing in these cars, we make a very competitive duo", he added.
The next event will take place from 15th to 16th January at Estoril, Portugal.