A positive Le Mans Cup return for Optimum Motorsport at Monza
With a rare window in the race calendar, Optimum Motorsport seized the opportunity to return to Monza for the second time this year, this time to compete in the Michelin Le Mans Cup. Fielding the distinctive #70 McLaren 720S GT3 for Brendan Iribe and Ollie Millroy, the team, and International GT Open regulars, put in great performances to leave Italy satisfied with a hard-earned fifth position.
As a brand-new entrant into the 2020 championship, the team did however enjoy some consistency with the use of the same Michelin tyres as used in GT Open, as well as the familiarity of both the circuit and race car. Having worked through the practice sessions, Brendan had the opportunity to qualify for Saturday’s two-hour race, the longest he has participated in since stepping up to this level at the start of the season.
Lining up fifth in the GT3 class, Brendan made best of the first lap shenanigans to gain two positions. The next target was the #8 Iron Lynx Ferrari of Rino Mastronardi, which he was able to pass to run in second; only for the position to be reversed on lap six.
The race settled briefly with the American racer keeping a keen eye on the charging - and eventual race-winning - #2 Porsche of Nicolas Leutwiler, prior to the inevitable first safety car. With 25-minutes complete, the racing resumed, but with the field now closely bunched, combined with a small error from Brendan exiting the second Lesmo, he lost momentum allowing Leutwiler to slip by, just as the caution flags flew once again on lap 15.
With the debris cleared away, Brendan resumed in fourth place, pulling an impressive 17-second margin from the #50 Ferrari behind, before pitting and handing over to his teammate at half-time.
Ollie resumed in fourth position, resuming the battle with the #2, now driven by Julien Andlauer, lining up to make the pass only for another caution, this time a full course yellow, to neutralise the action once again. The cars were unleashed again with 48-minutes remaining and with Ollie just 13-seconds behind the race leader.
The battle continued into the second half of the race with Ollie keeping those ahead on their toes, whilst fending off the advances from the #74 Ferrari of David Perel from behind. After a vigorous defence, Ollie was forced to cede the position at three-quarter distance.
After all the on-track drama, the run to the chequered flag was relatively calm and trouble-free, but it was a hard fought and well-earned fifth position for the Optimum Motorsport team on their return to the series.
The team and drivers are next in action next weekend as they return to International GT Open and another iconic circuit; Spa-Francorchamps.
Thomas Sander, Optimum Motorsport Deputy Team Manager
“A good weekend overall for the team. It’s a new championship for us and something of a late entry so there were considerable last-minute work and a lot stacked against us. We performed very well, worked cohesively, while operationally we were on top of everything. The pitstops, everything else went to plan, so we all leave Monza happy and look forward to the next one.”
“We have had a good weekend with lots of track time which is always a positive. Brendan drove amazingly well today in his race stint, taking the fight to the other bronze racers, some of them are very experienced, so it was a good experience for him. There was of course the three safety cars and restarts, so all positive. We could have finished higher up with a bit of a break on the balance of performance, but on the positive, the team did an amazing job and the car felt incredible.”