Optimum Motorsport lead the GT Open championship after back-to-back wins in Paul Ricard
Optimum Motorsport’s double win rounded off a perfect weekend in Le Castellet, which also included pole position for Sunday’s race sees the duo lead the International GT Open championship by 16 points.
A slight delay to Saturday morning’s schedule saw Nick head out to qualifying 20 minutes later than expected. Despite the morning's events, the Bronze driver achieved the second fastest time in class and placed sixth overall.
Come Saturday afternoon and even before the green flag dropped Nick had moved up to fifth on the starting grid (still P2 in Pro) as the #73 Ferrari was moved to the back of the field for track limit violations during qualifying.
Nick’s opening stint remained trouble free, staying clear of all contact that occurred amongst the pack behind him. Yellow flags disrupted the Am drivers’ pace as the #3 Pro-Am Audi found itself stranded at turn 10, seeing the Safety Car deployed with 6 minutes until the pit window opened.
As the Safety Car period ended, Nick pitted along with half of the field to cycle through the mandatory driver change to Joe, with the McLaren Factory Driver re-joining the field in eighth.
Less than 30 minutes remained and with the pit-window quickly closing, other teams began to box, seeing the order shuffle. With just Kessel’s Ferrari and the Oregon Team’s Lamborghini in front, Joe capitalised on the McLaren’s pace to take the lead with 15 minutes to spare and thus, claim their first win of the weekend.
Sunday morning was role reversal for the duo, with Joe at the wheel of the #72 McLaren 720S for the 30-minute qualifying session, claiming pole position by just 0.008s ahead of Fumanelli.
Not only was it a tight duel with Fumanelli’s Ferrari in qualifying, but also in the opening stages of the race, not until he ran wide which gave Joe ample opportunity to create distance between himself and the competition.
Having built up over a six second gap to those behind, Joe pitted with 25 minutes on the clock to hand over to Nick who would ultimately, take the chequered flag.
Rejoining the race in second, Nick hunted down the #133 Ferrari that was out ahead, but with the McLaren quicker in the speed traps, upon entry into the chicane Nick took the lead which ultimately, he retained until the chequered flag to claim the team’s second win of the weekend.
After their two podiums in Estoril and back-to-back wins in Paul Ricard, Nick and Joe lead the championship by 16 points. The International GT Open season resumes on 18-19 June at Circuit de Spa-Franchorchamps, Belgium.
“The main thing is we win today (Sunday) with a full pit stop penalty of 20 seconds, so we genuinely have no idea how we won it! The start was great for me, and all the action happened behind me so meant I could get away. The pit stop was clean, even with the extra 20 seconds and then when Nick jumped in, he didn’t put a foot wrong.
“When Nick headed out he got his head down and when you’re in the lead for so long it’s a pretty nervous wait. We actually didn’t tell Nick he was in the lead so didn’t know he won until he crossed the line, it’s been a great day!”
“I crossed the line not knowing where we were and asking the guys over the radio where we’d finished, I thought we were about seventh! Then when they told me we’d won it just topped off what an amazing weekend we’d had. I just want to thank GT Open; it’s been great.”