Though still a relative newcomer to the 24H SERIES – and, indeed, motor sport in general – our regular fans may well be familiar with Karen Gaillard already. This young Swiss star has, after all, finished three of the four rounds she has started on the class podium, and is still very much in contention for this year’s 24H SERIES Junior Cup with ST Racing’s Samantha Tan and Reiter Engineering’s Eike Angermayr.
But then, competing on-track is her dream. After some notable performances in go-karts in 2018, Karen entered, and summarily won, Young Driver Challenge powered by CUPRA in 2019, an accolade that led to her ADAC TCR Germany debut at the Nürburgring later that year. In 2020, still with CUPRA, she made her first 24H SERIES outings with Swiss outfit TOPCAR Sport at Monza and Hockenheim before signing off the year with a successful ascension into the Filière Endurance driver training scheme under the tutelage of former Le Mans class podium finisher, Jean-Bernard Bouvet. Having switched to GT competition with Vortex for 2021, Karen has since added to her 24H SERIES tally with two more class podiums and her maiden entry in the Hankook 24H DUBAI.
Turns out she’s pretty cool when her car is on fire too…
“My name is Karen Gaillard.”
“I’m 20 years old!”
“My first car race was in [ADAC] TCR Germany at the Nürburgring in 2019, and I was 18 years old.”
“I think crossing the line at the [Hankook] 24H DUBAI, because that was my first 24-hour race. And we finished 2nd! Just to finish a 24-hour race was great, but to finish on the podium was unbelievable!”
“I would say Navarra in Spain, and Lédenon and [Dijon]-Prenois in France. I love when it’s up and down and there are a lot of sensations. It’s actually quite similar in Mugello. I went there for the first time this year.”
“[Pause] Maybe Magny-Cours. The car caught fire when I was inside. It was not really, really hard, but it was strange to see the fire when I looked in the mirror!”
“My helmet, there is a lot of orange and blue because they are my favourite colours, and there is a little bit of pink. I like the design because there are flowers, so it feels quite feminine but it’s aggressive at the same time. And it’s the same colours overall as the [Vortex] and my overalls, so that’s nice too.”
“I like, and I think I’m quite good at, the starts. I always win some places at the beginning. I never lose places, so I hope I can continue that.”*
*Karen’s actually being quite modest here. Alongside her budding racing career, she’s also a trained nurse at the Friborg Cantonal Hospital in Switzerland.
“I never watch TV, so it’s hard to say. But maybe Angelina Jolie because she never gives up, she’s not afraid of anything and is strong.”
“I want to be a professional racing driver, and I want to do the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
“[Pause] In my first car race, I was so nervous and focused on my driving at the same time, that I actually passed the chequered flag twice! Recently I saw that this even happens to F1 drivers, and that allowed me to tell myself that maybe it wasn't that bad.”
“I think it’s a really nice championship, very professional and I really love endurance. There are many cars, and a lot of PRO and AM on the track at the same time. I think this is a good mix for the 24H SERIES. It builds a lot of competition.
Karen Gaillard was speaking with Quinten Kentie and James Gent at the 2021 Hankook 12H MUGELLO. Images courtesy of Boost Media, Arthur Chopin and Stéphane Issaurat.