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  • Writer's pictureVIVIEN STREBELOW

Podium for Jílková and Gudet in Gt4 Europe Season opener at Paul Ricard

The 2024 season of GT4 Europe started with a class podium for Czech racing ace Gabriela Jílková and French hillclimb champion Cindy Gudet, on her circuit debut: in one of the world's most competitive GT4 fields, the all-female duo finished third in race 1, kicking-off the new season in style at Paul Ricard.


Gabriela Jílkov, Cindy Gudet, Matmut Evolution Toyota GR Supra GT4 EVO, GT4 European Championship, 2024 Le Castellet
Photo credits: SRO/JEP

The first weekend of the new GT4 European season was off to a great start and with its usual huge grids of around 50 cars: the season opener at Paul Ricard in fact featured almost 100 drivers from more than 20 nationalities and 10 brands battling across three classes for the championship. Among them, three female drivers have signed up for the uber-competitive continental series: Jem Hepworth - making the step up from McLaren Trophy - as well as Gabriela Jílková and Cindy Gudet.


After a strong season in the FFSA French GT Championship, the Matmut Évolution team extended its involvement in GT4 competitions and started its program in the GT4 European series with two latest-generation Toyota GR Supra GT4 Evos and an all-female team in the Pro-Am class.


Czech driver Gabriela Jílková in fact made her return to the series since 2022, continuing her work with Matmut Évolution after last year's campaign in the French GT Championship together with Lucile Cypriano, where she finished third in the Pro-Am class with six podium finishes to her name.


Alongside her commitments with Porsche, Gabriela thus returned to GT4 competitions with Matmut, and did so by teaming up with Cindy Gudet - who is a newcomer to the GT racing world and made her debut in the series. Gudet is not a motorsport rookie though, as she's better known as a six-time French Hillclimb champion and also competed on ice racing and rallying.


Already the practice session turned out to be extremely promising for Jílková and Gudet, as the all-female duo recorded the fastest lap time in class and the 9th fastest overall by Quick Gabi, after having already led the pre-event test overall. Gudet was just as impressive and was straight up to pace; they would carry momentum with a 4th fastest time in class in pre-qualifying.


Both the qualifying sessions saw the two drivers clocking equally competitive lap times: the Matmut Évolution duo were fourth fastest in both sessions, and would thus start both races of the weekend from P4 in the ProAm class. Pole position in ProAm was scored by Stanislav Safronov (Mirage Racing) ahead of Finn Zulauf (W&S Motorsport) and Denis Bulatov (EastSide Motorsport) for race 1.


Qualifying 2 saw Kronberg on pole ahead of Noam Abramczyk (AV Racing) and Vaintrub in third. 


Gabriela Jílkov, Cindy Gudet, Matmut Evolution Toyota GR Supra GT4 EVO, GT4 European Championship, 2024 Le Castellet
Photo credits: SRO/JEP

Race 1 saw Safronov and Vaintrub taking a comfortable win in ProAm, with Safronov keeping up with the overall leaders and handing over his Aston Martin Vantage to Vaintrub to score their first win of the season ahead of Zulauf and Kronberg. Closing out the podium were Gabriele Jílková and Cindy Gudet - after a remarkable first race of the year.


From P4 in class, P16 overall, Jílková was behind the wheel for the first stint of the race. At the green flag, the Czech experienced racer smartly moved all the way towards the inside line and avoided a pile up at turn 1, with several cars going off and that triggered the Safety Car. She slotted into P14 overall and P5 at the restart on lap 3.


Gabriela then overtook Jon Lancaster for fourth on lap 5 with a great move, before she closed in on Zulauf. In a big group of battling cars, Zulauf fought back and positions settled. Jílková was just outside the overall top-10, ready to pick up the pieces from the many duels unfolding ahead.


Gabriela managed to break into the top-10 as pit window opened and she extended her stint thanks to great laps that saw the driver of the #66 Toyota setting personal bests; she eventually pitted on lap 14 from eighth overall, fourth in class.


Cindy Gudet took over the purple and yellow Toyota Supra GT4 for her first stint of the season - and was soon up to third after the pit stop cycle, as Kronberg was now behind thanks to a successful undercut. Gudet was soon up to speed, despite some traffic from some Silver class crews who almost made contact at the chicane. Gudet drove smartly and got away unscathed, in P13 overall - although Kronberg was now closing in.


On lap 19, Gudet was faster than the cars ahead, but had to defend from Kronberg, who eventually found a way past on lap 20. Cindy wasn't ready to give up yet and she kept up with her rivals, hanging on with really competitive times. When Lukas Mayer dropped down the order, Guden grabbed third in class once again, with now five mins left on the clock. Having set her best laps towards the end - not too far from her teammate - Cindy Gudet showed great potential on her first ever race in the series, and took the chequered flag in a highly encouraging third place, taking home a trophy on her circuit racing debut.


Jílková was also one of the highlights of the race, having moved up five places overall from the start, before handing over to her teammate. It was the first time a female driver was back on the podium in GT4 Europe since Gabriela herself scored a third place finish back in Misano 2022.


Gabriela Jílkov, Cindy Gudet, Matmut Evolution Toyota GR Supra GT4 EVO, GT4 European Championship, 2024 Le Castellet
Photo credits: SRO/JEP

Race 2 was a bit more tricky for the all-female duo, despite they once again showed good speed and determination in the battles. The class victory was a matter between Safronov and Kronberg - who fought hard in the second half of the race. Both drivers were stuck in traffic, and when Safronov tried to find a gap he found himself forcing another car off the track. He crossed the finish line first, but dropped down to second as Kronberg was promoted to the top step of the podium together with Zulauf. Safronov/Vaintrub were second with Abramczyk/Petit third.


Jílková and Gudet had more work to do despite a highly promising first half of the race.

Cindy Gudet took the start from fourth in class and she masterfully survived a hectic turn 1, with cars all over the place. While she initially fell to seventh in class and P27 overall, she would soon start a brilliant recovery. Gudet attacked the #33 Alpine of Leandri for fifth in ProAm and passed him on lap 3 - then soon closed a 2 second gap to the #90 Toyota GR Sweden driven by Holmlund, showing great pace in clear air.


With the fastest lap in class, Gudet overtook Holmlund on lap 8 and completed a stellar stint at the 30 minute mark, when Jílková took over from fourth in class.

The Matmut Évolution crew lost a few seconds in the pit stop and Gabriela settled on the 2:15 pace which was good enough for fourth. In the final ten minutes of the race, though, she came under pressure from the #90 Toyota - while still gaining ground to the #75 AV Racing Porsche, which had hit some tyre drop off.


Jílková was therefore right in the mix for another potential class podium in the chaotic final minutes, but was hit by the other Toyota in the closing laps. She still salvaged a sixth place in the ProAm class - resulting in very important points for the championship.

"We were fighting in the second race for the podium before contact by a competitor at the end of the race", explained Gudet. "For me, this weekend was rich in experience, and I had a lot of fun during the first battles on the track. We will continue the work to continue to progress."


Indeed, their first weekend as teammates brought positive results as well as greatly encouraging signs for a competitive ProAm campaign - which they will resume in the second round of the GT4 European Championshipìs season at Misano, Italy, from 17th to 19th May.


Gabriela Jílkov, Cindy Gudet, Matmut Evolution Toyota GR Supra GT4 EVO, GT4 European Championship, 2024 Le Castellet
Photo credits: SRO/JEP

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