Poles and podium for Optimum’s Artura British GT debut
What better way for the all-new Artura to make its British GT Championship debut than with back-to-back poles and a podium? Well, the Optimum GT4 duo of Brown-Clark did just that. A solid fight from the #90 team as well as its sister #27 McLaren GT3 across the two races sees the team leave Oulton Park with a strong points haul ahead of the series’ blue riband event, The Silverstone 500.
Double the races meant double the qualifying come Saturday afternoon for the 36-strong grid. With the Am’s (lower graded of the driver pairings) setting the grid for race one, and the Pros for race two’s starting order it was bound to be action-packed from the get-go.
Jack’s early lap in the the teams’ McLaren Artura, clocking in at a 1m40.650 seconds - beating last year’s pole position time, put him well clear of the the rest of the field. Slightly further ahead, Mark settled for tenth amongst the ultra-competitive GT3 class.
The second qualifying session for both the GT3 and GT4 categories were equally as competitive as the first, with Rob Bell securing an eighth-place grid start for Monday’s Race 2, and Clark, just like his team-mate secured pole. It wasn’t just a quick lap from the young Brit, but on another level entirely, smashing Darren Turner’s fastest qualifying time in 2022 by 2.2 seconds and a full second clear of the pack behind.
A heavy downpour just before lights went out for Race 1 saw most of the grid to start on wet weather tyres. However, with the track beginning to dry up, the team made a last-minute gamble on strategy to box Mark during the formation lap for slicks. It was then a chase through the field to regain positions which, was hindered only a few minutes into the season opener as Simon Orange in the #67 McLaren spun into the gravel, bringing out the first of the race’ two Safety Cars.
Racing resumed laps later with Mark, on slicks, lapping seconds quicker than those out in front. Just before the midway point the #27 boxed where Bell took over, who took the chequered flag in seventh. Further back, Brown led from lights out, but was closely followed by DTO’s Artura which ultimately, pipped the Optimum duo at the line following a spin from Charles in the final laps as the surface became increasingly wet.
The wet conditions continued throughout the day and remained for Race 2, but that didn’t hamper Bell’s pace as he made up positions amongst the Pros. As the pit windows opened, it was Optimum who, in both classes, found themselves boxing first. A tenth-place finish, combined with their points from the morning’s race, sees the #27 duo sit fifth in the championship standings.
Clark led from lights out for Race 2 however, fell to second as the Pro-Am dup of Gough and Wrigley benefited from the extra 14 seconds served by silver crews such as Clark-Brown during their mandatory pitstops.
The Intelligent Money British GT Championship resumes next month with the series’ joint-longest race of the year on May 6-7.
“A podium on my British GT debut and Driver of the weekend in GT4 class,” stated Clark.
“After a crazy Monday, Jack and I come away with some good points for the championship. Thanks to everyone in the team and to everyone that tuned in to watch. We’ll be back for Silverstone in May!"