A bitter-sweet British GT season finale for Optimum Motorsport
Optimum Motorsport headed to the final round of the British GT Championship at Donington Park realistic of its chances of adding the overall GT3 drivers’ championship to the Silver Cup success for Ollie Wilkinson and Bradley Ellis. The real aim was to finish the season off on a high, but unfortunately, the weekend was far from easy.
The highlight was undoubtedly the continued progress of the #75 Aston Martin Vantage GT4 line-up of Patrik Matthiessen and Mike Robinson as they secured fourth position in the two-hour season finale – their best result of the season.
Over on the GT3 side of the garage the team worked incredibly hard to hone the #96 to the Derbyshire circuit, but ultimately – despite ‘throwing the kitchen sink’ at the car, the balance remained tricky with oversteer dominating during the all-important qualifying session.
Race day saw Ollie take the first stint form 12th position on the grid and with Mark Farmer being pushed into a spin and then Ollie making the move on Andrew Howard, he started the move up through the order. It was an intense race at a circuit notoriously difficult to pass on, but come the driver changeover Ollie was up to eighth position.
Bradley took over, maintaining the position and then moving seventh due to attrition. However, on the very final lap of the season was unceremoniously taken out, resulting in a ninth-place finish.
Meanwhile, Mike and Patrik continued the recent gains in performance in the GT4. With a new gearbox fitted after troubles last time out at Brands Hatch, the drivers were right on the pace and in qualifying as they lined up in sixth position for the finale.
The pace was brutal in the class with Patrik and his rivals circulating in tandem for much of his stint before Mike took over. It was a very strong run from the former GT4 champion as he worked his way up to fourth position, recording his strongest finish of the season.
Optimum Motorsport have a very short pause ahead of the Spanish round of International GT Open at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
“A tough one. We qualified the #96 out of position and then got some early contact which hampered the balance overall and it induced understeer – whereas qualifying was all about oversteer – but we ran seventh until the end. In GT4, it was an entertaining race with lots of battles but with the additional Silver-Silver penalties, it really brings the Pro-Am cars into play, but Mike was able to pick them off one by one and secured P4. It’s out best result of the year and he put in a great lap in qualifying, the second fastest of the entire field, so there are some positives from the weekend.”
“That was a hard race and we were all getting really bunched up but no one was being silly so it was good clean racing. I just wish we could have been this competitive in Oulton Park as I believe we could have been in the championship fight. It’s really hard with the Pro-Ams having 26 seconds on us and we’re also carrying extra weight. I made some nice clean moves so I’m happy with how we ended the season.”
“It’s a really disappointing way to end the season in being fired off on the last lap like that for what really wasn’t really a position. People just get too hot-headed so it’s such a shame to end it like that. It’s been a difficult weekend, but we were making progress from P12 on the grid to P7. The season as a whole has been good though – we’ve had some ups and downs – and won the Silver Cup – so we can be relatively happy overall.”