While the first race of the International GT Open race weekend in Barcelona was one to forget for Optimum Motorsport, the second was memorable for the great charge from a 16th position in the grid to an impressive fifth place finish in the #96 Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
Mixed weather conditions made the sixth and penultimate round of the championship especially tricky. Darren Turner was again reunited with Ollie Wilkinson and put in a great performance in qualifying for the first race to start in third position.
The start was especially wet, and caution was the name of the game as Darren dropped two positions to avoid contact. With conditions starting to improve, he was able to fight his way back up to second ahead of the all-important pit stop.
The Optimum crew opted for slick tyres after the driver-change for Ollie and running in second position behind race leader Miguel Ramos – who was on wet tyres – everything was looking good for a potential win. Unfortunately, a broken stub axle ended the first race prematurely in what was an unfortunate missed opportunity.
Sunday’s race proved to be a success, despite understeer blighting Ollie’s run to 16th position on the grid. In completely differing conditions to Saturday’s race, the BRDC Rising Star superbly picked off three of his rivals before the team opted to box him early in the pit window. Optimum’s strategy paid dividends as – once the stops had been completed – they had a net gain of four positions to run ninth.
The run to the chequered flag saw the AMR factory driver make further gains to run fifth ahead of a late race Safety Car which compressed the field. With just five minutes of racing remaining, discretion was the better part of valour as he brought the car home in what was a great recovery drive from the team and both drivers.
The final round of the championship takes place at Monza, Italy on 12-13 October.
Shaun Goff, Optimum Motorsport Team Principal
“We really thought that we’d win the first race as everything was going to plan and we had made an excellent decision on switching to the slick tyres. It was there for the taking but it’s very rare for us to have a mechanical issue, but that’s exactly what happened. For the second qualifying session on Sunday, we switched back to a dry set up which seemed to induce understeer. We expected a top-five position on the grid, but with the traffic and handling, we were disappointed with 16th. We recovered well to finish in fifth, so credit to the team for giving Ollie and Darren a ‘racy’ car.”
“It felt good to be back at the sharp end today and put the disappointment of Saturday behind us. We’ve struggled this weekend, but the Optimum crew has worked hard to get the car right, particularly between qualifying and the (Sunday’s) race. Those changes really paid off; the car was really nice to drive. I was able to chip away and bring us into the fight for the top ten, then Darren did a great job to make us top five.”