It came down to the very final lap of the second round of the race weekend as the International GT Open Championship got underway at the glorious Circuit Paul Ricard in the South of France.
Ultimately, despite his best efforts, Ollie Wilkinson could not deny his rival the victory Sunday afternoon, but nonetheless, it was a sensational performance from the British racer and his more experienced teammate Bradley Ellis in the all new #96 Aston Martin Vantage. An impressive second position bodes well in what was has been a very positive start to the 2019 campaign.
“It’s been a very strong performance from the both of the drivers and the team as a whole,” stated Team Principal Shaun Goff. “It’s a little disappointing to lose the lead on the last lap with what was a bit of an ambitious move. Ollie did a good job to avoid contact. But we need to look at the bigger picture and that we are very competitive in the GT Open championship and that allows us to be optimistic for the rest of the season.
“Ollie in particular drove a great second race. He moved forward brilliantly, capitalising on mistakes of the others and applying pressure whilst making none of his own; he continues to come on leaps and bounds. Perhaps the first race we could have been stronger, but it has been a great start to the season at Paul Ricard.”
Following a fine podium performance last weekend as the British GT Championship got underway at Oulton Park, the Optimum Motorsport crew arrived at Paul Ricard for the new GT Open season confident of a strong showing.
The race weekend got off to a bit of a soggy start on Friday with little meaningful running in the opening practice session. Time lost in the second session due to a splitter issue on the #96 Aston Martin cost Optimum Motorsport additional track time. This made the first race on Saturday afternoon tough from eighth position on the grid, but a good recovery drive from Ollie and Bradley to finish sixth paved the way for Sunday’s big push.
Bradley qualified the car Sunday morning, gaining lap time as the session progressed before his penultimate lap have him a time good for fourth position on the grid. The start of the one-hour race saw action aplenty at the first turn and a subsequent safety car. As the race settled down, Bradley was on the move, maintaining the class position but moving up the overall order and by lap ten, three-seconds covered the pack in the Pro-Am class.
Bradley pitted from seventh overall, fourth in class towards the end of the pitstop window with Ollie returning to the circuit in same position. With 25 minutes of racing remaining, Ollie found himself in an intense four-way battle for the class lead.
With two rivals running wide disputing second position, Ollie seized the opportunity to move third and this soon became the race lead as Valentin Pierburg faltered exiting the final turn on lap 20.
Ollie pounced into turn one and took the lead with a decisive pass. Into the final minutes, Ollie ran at the front, but a last lap pass from the #19 of Jiatong Liang on the very final lap denied team the victory.
Optimum Motorsport now prepare for rounds three and four of the British GT Championship which take place in 18-19 May at Snetterton.
“It’s an encouraging start to the season and we’ve made progress throughout the weekend. We worked so hard for the class lead and I’m gutted to miss out on the win, but we’ll be pushing hard for the first win of the season from here.”
“It’s a really good solid start to the year. The new Vantage GT3 is new and we’re starting to make progress with car setup, so fingers crossed for a slightly more competitive second round, but we’re delighted with the podium. A great job by the team all weekend.”