Having put down solid foundations to the British GT Championship at Oulton Park, Optimum Motorsport travelled to Snetterton this weekend (18-19 May) for rounds three and four confident of a good result in both the GT3 and GT4 classes. Ultimately, it proved to be a disappointing weekend for the team however, as the hopes of securing a second podium position were dashed by a pitstop infringement and subsequent drive-through penalty.
Ollie Wilkinson and Bradley Ellis teamed up again in the #96 Aston Martin Vantage GT3, riding high after the Oulton Park podium and the GT Open runner-up position in GT Open. Ollie performed well in qualifying to record the sixth fastest time, third in the Silver class and with a rival taking a grid penalty, Ollie started from fifth position on the grid. He duly made a great getaway from the rolling start to run third at the end if the opening lap.
Settling into the stint nicely, Ollie kept pressure on the second-place car ahead, whilst keep a watching eye on #69 entry behind. With his fastest lap on lap ten, he pitted shortly after and handed over to his teammate. The order resumed with Bradley pressuring the #72 ahead for position.
A drive through penalty however ended any podium hopes. Bradley duty took the penalty and for the remainder of the race, fended off #47 to claim a hard fought seventh position.
The day’s second race was always going to be a tough one for the #96 crew. Starting 11th, Bradley was on the move from the start, passing the #9 entry to close on the tail of the #47 Aston Martin. It was a close race, with the top nine covered by just 11-seconds and Bradley kept the pressure on those ahead before pitting. Ollie had a good stint, racing well against his more experienced rivals before taking the chequered flag in eighth position.
Over in the GT4 side of the garage, it was a weekend of frustration with both the #75 of Mike Robinson and Patrik Matthiesen and the #35 of Connor O’Brien and Jack Butel suffering from a lack of straight-line speed.
The first race saw Mike eliminated after contact on the opening lap, while the second saw the pairing make up ground from the back of the field to finish ninth. Connor and Jack finished the first race in tenth position after picking up some suspension damage on their #35 car, while the second race was equally as frustrating for the young driver duo with an 11th place finish.
The team are back racing next weekend at Hockenheim in the second round of International GT Open.
Shaun Goff, Optimum Motorsport Team Principal
“We were spot on with our pit stops at Oulton Park and here unfortunately we’re on the wrong side of being so slick this time. We’ve established it was the incorrect programming of our pit timing equipment, but to give away a P3 or potentially a P2 is not ideal. Credit to Ollie as he’s been great at picking up those crucial positions at the start of the race and he’s really coming on in terms of confidence and maturity. The GT4 weekend was also tough, especially for the #75, so it’s a bitter pill to swallow.”
Ollie Wilkinson, #96 GT3
“The results are not what we wanted so that’s a bit disappointing all-in-all, but we had some good battles on the track. The pace was there but unfortunately the pitstop issue cost us the podium. Fortunately, I can’t think too much about this as I’m back out next weekend at Hockenheim in GT Open, but this weekend is one where we should have been on the podium again.”
Bradley Ellis, #96 GT3
“I think again we showed in the race we have the consistency and the pace to be in the top three. It was a technical issue in the pitstop with the timing, by such a small margin. The drive-through pretty much ended the race but we fought back to catch the pack and finish P7 in the first race. Ollie’s start was perfect, through turns one to three he was excellent. I couldn’t ask more from him with calm and calculated manoeuvres, so it was perfect from him really. It’s just a shame about the end results.”
Jack Butel, #35 GT4
“This whole weekend has been really tough, right from free practice. In quali we were just not on the pace and I can’t fault the team as they’re doing an amazing job, but our rival manufacturers are just pulling away from us. They have the power and way more grip and that’s annoying as I know the team have done the absolute maximum to get the car as well prepared as they can.”
Connor O’Brien, #35 GT4
“I enjoyed the burnout into the pit lane at the end of race two. No traction control, full brake and full throttle and I let two-11s and that was the highlight of my race. Seriously though, as disappointing as this was, we now at least have some time to look at the fundamental issues with the Vantage ahead of Silverstone.
Patrik Matthiesen, #75 GT4
“I had some good battles, but the car got worse over the stint but that’s how it is. The problem is the straight-line speed as I couldn’t even follow anyone let alone close. I could catch in the corners and then they’re just gone. We have the right setup on the car and both me and Mike know how to drive, but we just need a boost in the straights.”
Mike Robinson, #77 GT4
“This has been a very difficult weekend. We know it’s not the team but the speed issues on the straights have carried over from Oulton to here at Snetterton, so we think it’s a fundamental car and/or BoP issue. But the difference in speed is immense and at the moment we’re not able to compete with the other GT4 brands.”