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  • Writer's pictureSAMU D. OSWALD

Prototype Cup: Race winning pace goes unrewarded for Gabriela Jílková

There was little luck for Gabriela Jílková and Courtney Crone at the second round of the Prototype Cup Germany. A fire took out Jílková/Lloveras from the lead of the race, while technical issues and unavoidable contacts hampered Crone's weekend in Oschersleben.

Photo credits: Gruppe C Photography

GT4 star Gabriela Jílková showed more promising pace after the second round of the Prototype Cup Germany, which marks her debut in LMP3 machinery and, in a new driver pairing for Van Ommen Racing, she battled for the win. Unfortunately, the Czech racer and her new teammate – Asian Le Mans Series champion Xavier Lloveras – were ultimately unrewarded following a fire while in the lead. At the wheel of the #70 Gebhardt Motorsport Ginetta, Courtney Crone – an expert LMP3 racer who also competes in the IMSA VP Racing Sportscar Challenge – was back in Germany for the second round of her European campaign, where she teams up with Jacob Erlbacher. The duo had an unfortunate debut in Hockenheim and brought home a P12 as best finish – and aimed to climb the order at Oschersleben. Jílková – who marginally missed out on a podium in Hockenheim – proved that the Van Ommen Racing crew would be among the teams to beat when in practice, she and her teammate Lloveras set the second fastest time in FP2. Crone/Erlbacher had to fight through a technical issue that hampered their practice sessions.

The first qualifying held on Saturday morning was contested by Jílková and Erlbacher for the two teams lining up female drivers. A red flag with around 2 minutes to go halted their progress in the latter stages: Jílková had to settle in P10 for the first race of the weekend, while Jacob Erlbacher would have to start from 12th. Laurents Hörr (Koiranen Kemppi Motorsport) secured pole position, ahead of Oscar Tunjo (Van Ommen Racing by DataLab) and Markus Pommer (Racing Experience).

Photo credits: Gruppe C Photography

Race 1 was off to a great start for Gabriela, as she quickly snatched ninth place and then caught up with Göhler (BWT Mücke Motorsport), while at the same time she had to defend her position from Rogalski (DKR Engineering). Erlbacher also made up places, advancing to eleventh in the first laps. The pit stop window opened with 33 minutes to go and Jílková handed the car over to Xavier Lloveras. By extending his stint for a few more laps, Erlbacher climbed up to seventh, before Courtney Crone took over. An issue at the pit stop, though, meant that the Gebhardt Motorsport duo fell back to P13. After a good pit stop in the #5 Van Ommen Racing machine, Lloveras rejoined in 12th place and was quickly able to overtake the car in front to gain P11, while the rest of the field pitted. With good pace, Lloveras slotted back into seventh place after the round of pit stops. A time penalty of Martin Andersen handed Crone 12th place, as she attempted a recovery drive. Meanwhile, the fight for the lead got exciting during the pit cycles: Apothéloz (JVO Racing by Downforce Motorsport) was able to overtake Lüthen, grabbing first position, after Lüthen and his teammate had led the race from the start. At that moment, Lloveras gained sixth and, with 14 minutes left on the clock, he broke into the top five. Unfortunately, the Spanish driver would have to settle for sixth. With 5 minutes to go, the safety car was deployed due to a car off track – and wasn't ultimately restarted. Lloveras and Jílková finished in a hard-earned P6; Crone and Erlbacher defended P13. Julien Apothéloz took victory, ahead of Gary Hauser (Racing Experience) and Valentino Catalano (DKR Engineering). The second qualifying session opened Sunday morning's action – this time with Xavier Lloveras and Courtney Crone behind the wheel for their respective teams.

Photo credits: Gruppe C Photography

Lloveras set the early pace with the overall fastest lap in 1:20.660, quickly improving to a 1:19.920. After ten minutes, the qualifying was disrupted by a car off track – but was resumed for the last six minutes. Lloveras ended the qualifying with a fantastic second place that put the #5 Duqueine on the front row, only 0,230 seconds behind the leader – Valentino Catalano. Courtney Crone would line up in P14 for Race 2. At the start, Lloveras got away perfectly and was able to overtake the leader Catalano into turn 1. When Lloveras seemed able to pull away and contest for the win, he sadly had to park his car on the side of the track, with a fire that had to be extinguished by the track marshals. It was a heartbreaking ending to an otherwise promising weekend for Lloveras/Jílková, who clearly showcased speed to fight at the top of Prototype Cup Germany, but haven't yet been able to capitalize on their pace. Unfortunately, they were not the only drivers to hit trouble: Courtney Crone was involved in an unavoidable contact and had to pit for a new front bodywork. She rejoined, albeit one lap behind. The race went back to green with 48 minutes left and Catalano was now leading Apothéloz and Mauron. During the pitstop window, Erlbacher took over from Crone and slotted into P12; after an off track by Schöll, he gained P11, but a tyre puncture forced him to another pit stop which cost the #70 Gebhardt Motorsport Ginetta another position. At the mid race round of pit stop, the Apothéloz/Tunjo duo was back up to second place, with Markus Pommer behind them and Catalano/Rogalski still leading the pack. Rogalski was unchallenged and took a first win in the series, ahead of Tunjo/Pommer. From 14th on the grid and despite a few mishaps, Courtney Crone and Jacob Erlbacher were eleventh across the finish line. "Definitely wasn't the result the Gebhardt Motorsport team deserved. Some unavoidable contact from two cars getting together in front of me caused us to pit and change the nose and drop back", Crone explained. "Jacob Erlbacher drove a great stint having come back from a punctured tire." "A character building weekend, but already looking forward to the next one", she concluded. Gabriela Jílková and Courtney Crone will in fact be back on track in the Prototype Cup Germany from 23-25 June, as Circuit Park Zandvoort, Netherlands, will host the third round of the season.

Photo credits: Gruppe C Photography



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