Optimum Motorsport: 2022 GT Open Vice-Champions
It was a three-way battle heading into GT Open’s season finale weekend at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with Optimum’s duo of Moss-Osborne just four points behind with two races to go. Ultimately, the title was handed to Oregon Team’s #63 Lamborghini Hites-Pulcini entry, after #72 received a 5-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.
Heavy mist in Montmeló on Saturday morning delayed qualifying proceedings by over an hour as the track conditions were deemed unsafe. Come 11am and the skies were back to blue, and qualifying was green.
Joe was on qualifying duties for the #72 McLaren, with Michael Benyahia at the wheel of Optimum’s #4 entry. Starting fourth (PRO) and with #4 sixth (PRO) it was a great start to the weekend for Joe as he moved straight up to third before the entry of T1, sailing round the outside of the pink SPS Mercedes-AMG.
The Porsche finds itself in the gravel at turn 10, prompting the first Safety Car of the race. Upon the restarts, positions remain unchanged until the #133 Ferrari repeats the same feat at the Porsche in the gravel, bringing the Safety Car back out moments later.
Having lost places on the opening lap, Michael regains position out on track before the pit window opens and all teams begin to box.
32 minutes to go and Joe come sin to hand over to Nick (also serving their success penalty carried over from their win in Monza), one lap later and the sister #4 car comes in with Finlay Hutchison heading out to make his debut in the race.
With all post-race penalties applied (the #19 Oregon Lamborghini received a 5-second penalty for causing contact in the early stages of the race), Nick crossed the line fourth in class, with Finlay close behind in seventh.
Sunday morning was role reversal, with Nick and Finlay qualifying for their respective cars. It wasn’t the easiest session for the candidate for the #72 McLaren. Nick qualified 16th after a dramatic start of the session. The Brit’s car stopped along the track with an electronic glitch, he would also get a 5-position penalty on the grid as the mechanics intervened on-site.
Come the race start it was a fight through the field for Nick as he climbed through the pack before pitting as the window opened. The pit crew performed a faultless stop, seeing the #72 join the race ahead of the #63 Lamborghini as they served a success penalty, giving Joe ample opportunity to extend the gap between his and the championship protagonist.
In the final laps, Osborne closes on Cazzaniga, finishing fourth right ahead of Pulcini, who takes the crown. Michael crossed the line in the top 10 overall (P7 PRO).
“That’s the end of another season. Nick and I finished second in the championship, just three points away from winning it. Congratulations to the Oregon Team on beating us fair and square.
“We’re really fortunate to have a great team full of funny and hard-working individuals behind us at Optimum and McLaren. The big story is that Nick didn’t want to enter us in the ProAm class and “hide” behind his Bronze driver grading. Entering the Pro class seemed to work for us!”