Having proved to be so dominant at the same venue last year, the 2019 edition of the Oulton Park season-opener to the British GT Championship brought lots of learnings, and with it came a superb first podium of the season – and Silver Cup victory – for Ollie Wilkinson and Bradley Ellis.
After months of preparation, the Wakefield-based team wheeled out three fantastic new Aston Martin Vantages over the Bank Holiday Easter weekend; fielding two cars in the GT4 class and one in the GT3 Silver class.
Optimum Motorsport took part in the Friday test day – which consisted of two one-hour sessions – with the new driver parings of Connor O’Brien / Jack Butel and Mike Robinson / Patrik Matthiesen getting equated in the #35 and #75 GT4s respectively. Ollie Wilkinson and Bradley Ellis meanwhile also completed the sessions, ahead of official practice in the beautifully liveried #96 GT3.
Qualifying for the two-rounds on Easter Sunday however proved to be challenging for all three driver pairings. With such large field – 38 entries – finding and extracting the ultimate lap time in just a ten-minute qualifying shoot out, proved to be especially difficult.
The opening race saw Ollie line up 11th in his #96 GT3, making a great start to move up two positions to run ahead of #47 of Graham Davidson. With incident and accident aplenty in both races, the Safety Car was soon out with Ollie up to seventh applying pressure to #8 of Richard Neary.
Excellent pit work from the Optimum Motorsport crew, combined with the timing of the mid-race driver change, resulted in Bradley exiting the pits in a fighting third position. The 2007 British GT Champion duly showed his race-craft as with an extra 30 kilos of ballast on board courtesy of running in the Silver Cup, he held #69 of Jonny Cocker at bay despite extensive pressure – and the odd tap – to bring home a fabulous podium position and the Silver Cup victory.
The afternoon race proved to be a bit tougher, but still brought a great result with Ollie and Bradley battling hard in very difficult circumstances to finish sixth from 11th on the grid and securing valuable championship points on a day where so many did not.
Ollie Wilkinson, #96 GT3
“I got a clean start and jumped one of my rivals there; I saw an opening and I placed myself there in the middle of the circuit – which is always the safest place to be. The first lap is always very busy and there was the expected contact and two cars took themselves out and I then spent a lot of time battling the #8 Mercedes but carrying the extra 30 kilos made that really hard.
“I got a move done into Cascades which was really good, and I could stay ahead of him before I pitted and then we made more positions in the stop – a mega job by the team, spot on. The rest was down to Bradley who again did an amazing job considering the weight penalty against the #3 Barwell Lamborghini. A hell of a job; unbelievable really!”
Bradley Ellis, 96 GT3
“After seeing Ollie’s start to race one, I could feel the pressure as a race result was on. I had to make sure I could capitalise on the hard work from Ollie and the perfect pitstop from the team. Holding the Lamborghini behind me in the stint was really difficult – especially in the low-speed turns – and then the GT4 traffic too was difficult. I’m really delighted with this result, very good work from the team.”