Optimum Motorsport today completed another milestone in its racing history, taking the chequered flag in the team’s first race in the GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, whilst securing a hard-earned points finish with a superb eighth place overall.
The opening round of the delayed 2020 season took place at Imola, Italy with the team fielding the Y.CO branded McLaren 720S in the Pro-class for reigning British GT Silver Cup champion Ollie Wilkinson, 2019 China GT title winner Joe Osborne and 2016 Blancpain Endurance Series victor Rob Bell.
With such a strong line-up, Optimum Motorsport worked their way through free practice and into qualifying. This proved to be an especially close affair with two-thirds of the 45-car strong field covered by just one second. Ollie was first out to qualify, followed by Rob and then Joe and all three put in strong runs in each of the 15-minute sessions, resulting in 22nd position on the grid ahead of the three-hour endurance race.
“Perhaps we should have been a little higher up,” Team Principal Shaun Goff said ahead of the three-hour race. “Somewhere in P10-15 as I think that was achievable. “We now we need to be right on top of our game and our long run pace was good so we’re sure we can move forward from P22.” Indeed, they could.
Joe took the first stint from the rolling start., slotting in behind the #100 entry of Maxi Buhk and making small gains through the stint as others found themselves embroiled in incidents. This promoted Joe to 20th – still chasing the yellow Mercedes ahead – before handing over to Ollie for the middle stint.
Ollie resumed the race in 19th, setting his sights on the #100 – now driven by Alessio Lorandi – ahead. Progressing to 16th, Ollie joined a high-speed train running all the way through to Patrick Pilet in third place, maintaining position, whilst taking advantage of numerous issues for others.
Rob took the final stint, running tenth ahead of the final phase of racing. With the field closing up due to a late race caution period, he made short work of passing Thomas Preining and then Ricardo Feller to finish the team’s first race in the series and to record a superb eighth position.
The team now move on to Oulton Park for round one of the British GT Championship, quickly followed by the opening race of the year in GT Open at the Hungaroring.
“Starting in 22nd, we had a battle plan for the race and we followed it perfectly. My stint was a bit difficult with so many full course yellows, so we went a lap longer than some of the others before pitting and that was the right call, then Ollie had a great stint, going beyond what we had targeted for him. Rob then did what Rob does and that moved us up to P8 overall. It was a successful day at the track and we’re feeling really positive going forward!”
“I didn’t dare dream that we’d be able to turn 22nd on the grid into eighth at the flag, and to gain our first championship points of the season in the first round. I can’t thank Optimum, McLaren, Joe and Rob enough, or see what the rest of the season has in store.”
“Everyone did really well; Joe and Ollie kept it clean and I bided my time a little in the closing stages, used a bit of experience and gained two spots on the run to the flag. It’s the first race for the McLaren 720S in this championship, the first for the team and the first for Ollie. To finish eighth in such an amazing and competitive championship today was an excellent result.”
Shaun Goff, Team Principal
“Today underlined how important it is to be consistent and to keep out of trouble and a lot of people in the field seemed a bit rusty. We had a couple of niggles in the two pit stops which cost us some time and we had some rear end damage on the McLaren which fortunately didn’t miss a beat. There’s a few issues we need to iron out but overall, it’s been positive and promising for the season ahead.”