Optimum to test its mettle in GT3 Le Mans Cup with lady racer Flick Haigh and Joe Osborne
Optimum Motorsport will test its mettle against an expanding high-calibre Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup entry at Circuit Paul Ricard this weekend (26-27 August) as it assesses its options for the 2017 season.
The UK-based team – a regular in the British GT Championship and CREVENTIC 24H Series – will field a sole Audi R8 LMS GT3 for British GT barnstormer Joe Osborne and ex-Caterham ace Flick Haigh, who will hold the title as the first female racer to compete in the GT3 Le Mans Cup.
Optimum Motorsport built its reputation with Ginetta GT4 machinery, which it continues to run in the British GT Championship, but graduated to GT3 by acquiring a new generation Audi R8 LMS in 2016.
On form from the outset of the season, only mechanical issues have prevented Optimum Motorsport from achieving race wins and podium finishes in the 24H Series. However, results haven’t been forthcoming for the team’s British GT3 entry due to being heavily ballasted for fielding a silver-graded driver pairing and this has prompted it to withdraw its Audi from the final two rounds of the season.
Optimum Motorsport is now free to explore other GT championships and it has posted an entry in the fourth round of the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup at Circuit Paul Ricard on France’s Mediterranean coast.
Established at the start of 2016 as a support act for the European Le Mans Series (ELMS), the GT3 Le Mans Cup is unique for being centred around GT3-spec racecars and ‘gentleman’ drivers.
The series, conceived by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, consists of six rounds and featured prominently on the 24 Hours of Le Mans billing in June, and a high quality entry ensures races are rich in action and drama.
Optimum Motorsport will enter its Audi R8 LMS for British GT racer Osborne and ex-Caterham ace Haigh, who both raced for the team in rounds of the 2016 24H Series at the Dubai Autodrome, Mugello and Paul Ricard.
Haigh will become the first female racing driver to enter the GT3 Le Mans Cup and she said: “I am looking forward to my first outing in the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup. It's a new challenge for me as I have for the past few years concentrated on endurance racing. I have heard good comments about the championship so I am excited about making my debut at Circuit Paul Ricard.
“I have driven Le Castellet before in a prototype and more recently in last month’s 24H Paul Ricard in Optimum Motorsport’s Audi. It’s a circuit I have always liked; it’s fast and flowing, yet technical. My main aim is to do the best I can. I enjoy new challenges and a shorter race format will bring the need for outright pace. We hope to be at the sharp end.”
Optimum Motorsport Team Principal, Shaun Goff, said: “This is an event for evaluating Optimum Motorsport’s options for the 2017 season. The Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup is an enticing package that appears to be a step up from what we’ve been doing this year and grid numbers are on the up, so we’re looking forward to seeing what it’s all about.
“Flick is looking to do a full season for the first time in a few years and the GT3 Le Mans Cup is one she’s intrigued about. She will be the first lady driver to compete in the championship and, given what we’ve seen from her and Joe (Osborne) in the 24H Series, I think we can run competitively. Ultimately, we just want to get to know the championship and the organisers and to know we can run well.”
Action will begin on Friday 26 August with two free practice sessions, followed by qualifying on Saturday 27 August at 11.15. The green flag will be waved on the two-hour races later that same day at 17.00.