Optimum Motorsport narrowly missed out on a podium in Donington Park, after a fire to the rear of the GT3 ended their hopes prematurely.
Ollie Wilkinson and Bradley Ellis impressed in qualifying to set a collective 2:55:582 to slot into seventh on the grid. Ollie’s initial time in the opening session was less than one-tenth off the top spot. The GT4s also had a successful outing to qualify inside the top twelve.
At the start Ollie rapidly progressed through the order to slot into the top four in just eight laps. Setting fastest laps he tucked in behind the leaders, before an incident between the Lamborghini and McLaren allowed him to get a good run on the #18 into the hairpin, to move into third place before the half-way point.
Patrik Matthiesen and Jack Butel took the start for the GT4s as they both maintained position throughout the opening laps. In the #75, Patrik had begun progressing through the field to move up to tenth, while the sister GT4 ran into some trouble.
As the pit-stops began to take swing, a fire consumed the rear of the #96 just as Brad was leaving the pit-lane, prematurely ending their race.
Mike took over from Patrik, before serving a stop-go penalty for a short pit-stop. But the British driver put in some hot laps towards the end of the race to catch the tail of the pack to sneak into the top nine.
Unfortunately for Jack, contact with the #62 Aston Martin at the final corner damaged the #35s suspension leading to an early retirement.
Optimum Motorsport leaves Donington Park having made a lot of progress despite the result. Ollie and Brad maintain the Silver Cup lead and sit fourth in the overall standings. The pair of GT4s continue to sit in the GT4 Silver Cup standings together as Patrik and Mike lead Jack and Connor in seventh and eighth.
Optimum Motorsport Team Principal, Shaun Goff: “It was really good for Ollie to have moved up into third place so early on. He put in a good stint and he’s got the pace in himself and in the car to do that. Unfortunately we seem to struggle a little bit more with the brakes. The encouraging thing is we were on course for another podium and it means as a team we have been doing a good job. We can take a lot of positives from the previous rounds to know that we can be competing for wins.
“It was unfortunate for Jack to be a victim of a racing incident, where we lost part of the suspension and that put us six laps down whilst we changed it, and there was no reward to go back out and risk the car, when the next round at Spa is in a few weeks’ time. We seem to struggle in traffic with overheating in the GT4s, the gearbox on the #75 dropped us back a bit in the race but once we were in clean air, we were able to pull some of that deficit back. Mike did really well to set the cars fastest lap on the last lap and it means we’re on the right track. Whatever negatives we pull from the weekend we’ll turn into positives and hopefully come back stronger in Spa.”
Ollie Wilkinson, #96 GT3: “I think all the way from practice yesterday morning it was going really well, we started with quite a good setup, so we didn’t have to tweak much which was nice. I had my best qualifying of the year which was great, and we lined up in seventh for the race. I managed to get a good start and I made up a couple of places from that. I was quite close to third place for a while and was biding my time, and then the Lamborghini and the McLaren came together at the penultimate corner and I was able to get a run on the Lamborghini. Our brakes were overheating as the race went on, so as they got hotter and the race went further, we were losing performance every lap, and it was just hard to hang on whilst dealing with that. The fire at the end was really disappointing but nothing that any of us could have done anything about. We’re looking forward to Spa and hopefully we can convert the performance there.”
Bradley Ellis, #96 GT3: “We’re not currently sure what the cause of the fire was, but leaving the pit-box the car caught fire and it’s unfortunate because for us where we are in the pitlane, it’s a long way to the end of pits and you can’t park in front of anyone else’s garage because there’s a lot of fuel in the pitlane so I had to stop at the end and let the marshals do their job. Ollie did an amazing first stint, he was giving the team great feedback. I felt we were in a really good position to be on the podium. But we can take a lot from the weekend knowing we were up there, so we go to Spa hoping for some good fortune.”
Jack Butel, #35 GT4: “The car was good; I got a good run out of the penultimate corner on the #62 but we made contact which unfortunately broke part of the front suspension. I made it back to the pits and got it fixed, so we went back out but then we decided to retire the car to save any further damage. I can’t wait for Spa and hopefully it can go our way.”
Patrik Matthiesen, #75 GT4: “The start went really well, after one or two laps we had moved up a place and started fighting with two cars ahead of us. I just could never really get close enough to them and overtake them. The gearbox started to get hot in the middle of the race and it entered some sort of safety-mode, so it started short shifting which lost us some time down the straights. We were really quick through the corners because we were catching up to them every time, but they’d pull away on the straights which is unfortunate. But it’s lucky for us that we just got into the top ten at the end, so I’m happy to come away with some points and I’m really looking forward to Spa.”
Mike Robinson, #75 GT4: “The car felt really good in the race, it’s just a shame about the pitstop penalty that cost us a lot of time. I think we’ve definitely taken a big step forward to being on the same pace of some of the other GT4s, I could see when I was back out that we had similar pace to them if not slightly better at the end. It’s a shame because I think we could have been fighting the other two Aston Martin’s at the end, but we’re getting there. Obviously, we got the points at the end, but it could have been a lot better. It’s tricky because I think some of the others are just too fast for us at the moment, but hopefully we can get back up there, and we look forward to the next round.”