While Optimum Motorsport’s GT4 entry enjoyed a successful race weekend at Silverstone, it was a little more difficult for the GT3 side of the garage in the fifth round of the International GT Open Championship.
Having already stood on the top step of the podium and shown great pace throughout the season, the Silverstone weekend was somewhat tricky for the newly announced BRDC Rising Star Ollie Wilkinson and Aston Martin Racing teammate Darren Turner in the #96 Aston Martin Vantage.
A potential podium position in the second race of the weekend would have been a good reward for the hard-working team, but the actions of a rival took away the chance to end the weekend on a high note. “I know I’ve had better weekends and I know I’ll have worse; that’s racing,” declared a philosophical Ollie.
Friday’s two free practice sessions proved relatively routine ahead of Saturday’s new qualifying format. With both drivers setting times in the session to determine the grid position, Ollie went first on fresh rubber, setting a time good for P10, while Darren pushed hard on his final lap, putting down best sector times only to have the lap time deleted due to track limits at Stowe. This left the duo eighth on the grid for the Saturday’s first race.
Unfortunately, it was a short event for Ollie, as a multi-car incident under braking into Stowe on the first lap saw him eliminated from the race. Darren and then Ollie qualified sixth position for the Sunday afternoon race. Following the session, the team found that the front sub-frame was cracked and after intense work from the Optimum crew, the car was readied for race two.
Darren held position at the rolling start with pressure from behind from the #20 Mercedes. In a fair and strong move, Tom Onslow Cole passed Darren for position but on the very next lap went off on his own and dropped down the order. The race settled with the #96 holding its own in sixth position.
After 16-laps, Darren pitted and handed over to Ollie who resumed in fifth and at that point the leading quartet had pulled a margin and it seemed at the time that the result was set. The final lap of the one-hour race however saw the two cars ahead running low on fuel. With both slowing at The Loop, Ollie made the move to pass around the outside.
The car behind Ollie, the #10 Mercedes of Miguel Ramos, had other ideas however and t-boned the McLaren ahead. As a result, the #59 of Martin Kodric was sent spinning into the back of Ollie’s car, spinning him around in the process. Ollie recovered to finish a disappointed seventh.
The team and Ollie shake off the result and are next out at Donington Park next weekend where they are aiming for their second victory of the season and a top three finish in the drivers’ championship with Bradley Ellis.
“We didn’t really think that a podium was a possibility really given the timeframe we had, and I ran in fifth position after taking over from Darren. Then on the last lap, with just three corners to go, the two cars ahead of me were running out of fuel and they went to the inside of The Loop. I went around the outside and then Miguel Ramos in the #10 SPS Mercedes completely out braked himself and drove straight into the side of the #59 McLaren and then the McLaren hit me and caused us to spin.
“Miguel went on to finish in third position and it’s an interesting way to make a move in my view – using other people to brake – I know I’ve had better weekends and I know I’ll have worse; that’s racing.”
“We lacked a little pace this weekend, even though the car actually felt very good but in saying that we both did a good job to put the car sixth on the grid. The team deserve credit to after finding the crack in the sub-frame and it was great work from the team in getting the part and then fitting in time to race. In the race, I had to wait a little to get the front tyres up to temperature and then our pace wasn’t too bad.
“Ollie jumped in and his stint was perfect in terms of speed and consistency, keeping close to the lead pace which was good given our qualifying speed. It looked like we would then get some good fortune with two of the leaders struggling with fuel when Miguel Ramos lunged from a million miles back. So, at one point P5, then a Brucie-Bonus third, then it was all taken away by a rash move.”
Shaun Goff, Optimum Motorsport Team Principal
“There’s no doubt about it, we struggled a little this weekend. We lacked a little something on the car but as always, we gave it our very best shot and a solid P5 was on the cards until the last lap dramas. To lose a potential podium like that was hard on us all.
“A stellar job from Ollie and Darren to put us in the position in the first place though, so credit to them. Now we focus on British GT and see what we can achieve at Donington Park.”