Defending British GT Champions Optimum Motorsport shine with superb Oulton Park Podium
Having proved to be so dominant at the same venue last year, the 2019 edition of the Oulton Park season-opener to the British GT Championship brought lots of learnings, and with it came a superb first podium of the season – and Silver Cup victory - for Ollie Wilkinson and Bradley Ellis.
After months of preparation, the Wakefield-based team wheeled out three fantastic new Aston Martin Vantages over the Bank Holiday Easter weekend; fielding two cars in the GT4 class and one in the GT3 Silver class.
Optimum Motorsport took part in the Friday test day – which consisted of two one-hour sessions - with the new driver parings of Connor O’Brien / Jack Butel and Mike Robinson / Patrik Matthiesen getting equated in the #35 and #75 GT4s respectively. Ollie Wilkinson and Bradley Ellis meanwhile also completed the sessions, ahead of official practice in the beautifully liveried #96 GT3.
Qualifying for the two-rounds on Easter Sunday however proved to be challenging for all three driver pairings. With such large field – 38 entries – finding and extracting the ultimate lap time in just a ten-minute qualifying shoot out, proved to be especially difficult.
The opening race saw Ollie line up 11th in his #96 GT3, making a great start to move up two positions to run ahead of #47 of Graham Davidson. With incident and accident aplenty in both races, the Safety Car was soon out with Ollie up to seventh applying pressure to #8 of Richard Neary.
Excellent pit work from the Optimum Motorsport crew, combined with the timing of the mid-race driver change, resulted in Bradley exiting the pits in a fighting third position. The 2007 British GT Champion duly showed his race-craft as with an extra 30 kilos of ballast on board courtesy of running in the Silver Cup, he held #69 of Jonny Cocker at bay despite extensive pressure – and the odd tap – to bring home a fabulous podium position and the Silver Cup victory.
The afternoon race proved to be a bit tougher, but still brought a great result with Ollie and Bradley battling hard in very difficult circumstances to finish sixth from 11th on the grid and securing valuable championship points on a day where so many did not.
Ollie Wilkinson, #96 GT3
“I got a clean start and jumped one of my rivals there; I saw an opening and I placed myself there in the middle of the circuit – which is always the safest place to be. The first lap is always very busy and there was the expected contact and two cars took themselves out and I then spent a lot of time battling the #8 Mercedes but carrying the extra 30 kilos made that really hard.
“I got a move done into Cascades which was really good, and I could stay ahead of him before I pitted and then we made more positions in the stop – a mega job by the team, spot on. The rest was down to Bradley who again did an amazing job considering the weight penalty against the #3 Barwell Lamborghini. A hell of a job; unbelievable really!”
Bradley Ellis, 96 GT3
“After seeing Ollie's start to race one, I could feel the pressure as a race result was on. I had to make sure I could capitalise on the hard work from Ollie and the perfect pitstop from the team. Holding the Lamborghini behind me in the stint was really difficult – especially in the low-speed turns – and then the GT4 traffic too was difficult. I’m really delighted with this result, very good work from the team.”