GT4 European Series - Spa (Belgium) Performance doesn’t always mean prizes…


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Taking place during the weekend of the centenary of the 24 Hours of Spa, the third round of the GT4 European Series had a record 55-car entry list. Both races were highly contested over the 7km of the legendary Belgian circuit. In the Silver Cup, Enzo Joulié and Etienne Cheli (#9 Toyota GR Supra GT4 Evo) wanted to get their lead back after having to retire in Misano. Their hopes were dashed despite putting in some very good performances: retiring in the first race, and scoring a single point in the second one. In the Pro-AM category, the female Matmut Évolution crew, Cindy Gudet and Gabriela Jilková (#66 Toyota GR Supra GT4 Evo), were aiming for another podium (or even more). There as well, the results did not reward their efforts. The women left meanwhile with 7 more points on their total. In the overall Silver classification, Enzo Joulié and Etienne Cheli are P4, 10 points away from the lead. In Pro-AM, Gabriela Jilková and Cindy Gudet are 6th. The next event will be the 4th round of the season, taking place in Hockenheim, on the 19th and 20th of July. 

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To celebrate this special centenary edition, the protagonists of the GT4 series joined the traditional Wednesday parade to the centre of town in Spa, mingling with the entrants of the 24 Hour race. It was a festive moment for the drivers as well as the teams.

After the party, it was back to business with the free practice session. Despite a large field, the Matmut Évolution drivers managed to make it up among the best times. The #9 set the 6th time in Silver, while the #66 was in the Pro-AM Top 20.

The second free practice session was exceptionally replaced by a pre-qualifying session. Taking into consideration the regular issues brought on by the weather here in the Ardennes, race control decided to play it safe, in case the qualifying session were to be cancelled. In that case, the times from the pre-qualifying session would set up the starting grid. At the end of this unusual session, Enzo Joulié and Etienne Cheli (#9) were P11 Silver, and Gabriela Jilková and Cindy Gudet (#66) P15 Pro-AM.

The qualifying sessions took place as planned, and there wasn’t a drop of rain in sight, just an interruption of a few minutes after one car went off track. In the first session, Enzo Joulié set the 18th time (P13 Silver), while Gabriela Jilková was P35 (P14 Pro-AM). In the second session, Etienne Cheli went all out and placed the #9 Toyota GR Supra GT4 Evo P6 overall and Silver. Cindy Gudet had a great start of the session (P6 Pro-AM) but was cut short by a red flag. She ended up placing the #66 in P38 on the grid (P11 Pro-AM).

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Race 1 - Retirement for #9 and points for #66

The first race started as the sun was setting (20°C), providing slightly unusual conditions with a falling track temperature, which meant that the tyres would need to be carefully managed in terms of their degradation.

With 55 cars on track, the first corner would be tricky. It didn’t take long for the fights to break out in the various categories, and a few of the trajectories were quite “wide”. Having started P17 and P34, Enzo Joulié (#9) and Gabriela Jilková (#66) also threw themselves into the fight.

Unfortunately, after 15 minutes of racing, Enzo Joulié (#9) was caught up in a collision at the Brussels corner, which resulted in him going off the track and retiring. This second point-less result in two rounds would prove costly for the championship.

At the end of her stint, Gabriela Jilková (#66) was just at the edge of the Pro-AM Top 10. Followed by Cindy Gudet for the second part of the race, the Frenchwoman completed the job and was just as fierce as her teammate. The #66 Toyota GR Supra GT4 Evo finished the race P18 overall, P7 Pro-AM, not missing out on the opportunity to score points.

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Race 2 – From better to worse

The following day, it was time to go again. Same layout, Blanchimont, Raidillion, Speaker corner, Bus Stop… so many turns filled with GT history. The new asphalt was wonderful, providing more grip, the lap times of the discipline were also improving.

The last race of the meeting promised to be eventful. Etienne Cheli (#9) took off with a wonderful start, going from P6 to P2 as he left the la Source corner, then continued his attack for the lead in the climb up to Les Combes. His momentum was halted by a safety car, following a car going off track. Cindy Gudet (#66) was P35.

At the restart, Etienne continued his attack and took the lead. After that, his goal was to create a wide enough gap to his competitors. Just as the driver change window was about to open, another incident provoked a FCY, followed by a safety car. It wiped out his gap completely. The cars regrouped and the pit stop window was pushed back as a safety measure. At the restart, there were 29 minutes to go. Etienne, still leading, held on for a time, but was overtaken by the #79. Sat in P2, he did not let up.

Cindy Gudet was the first to head to the pits for the driver change, followed by Etienne Cheli with 24 minutes to go. Gabriela Jilková headed out on the hunt for a few points in Pro-AM.

Just after the stop, while Enzo Joulié was in P2 in the #9, another safety car came to upset the rhythm. At the restart, there were 10 minutes left in the race. Enzo was overtaken by two BMW, then fell to P7, before falling out of the points. Due to the tyres being so degraded, it wasn’t possible for the Toyota to fend off the last attacks. What’s more, the #9 would receive a 5 second penalty after the finish for not respecting the track limits; the #9 finished P10 in Silver and scored one point. Gabriela Jilková (#66) also scored a point in Pro-AM when she crossed the line.

In the classification for the Silver championship, Enzo Joulié and Etienne Cheli are now fourth, 10 points from the podium. Gabriela Jilková and Cindy Gudet are sixth Pro-AM. The next round will be in Germany, at the Hockenheim circuit, on the 20th and 21st of July, and promises some more great fights!

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