Optimum underscore race-leading pace, whilst disappointed with fifth place at Donington Park
The second visit to Donington Park in the Intelligent Money British GT Championship saw the #96 Optimum Motorsport duo of Ollie Wilkinson and Lewis Proctor lead for a good portion of the race, ultimately finishing the three-hour Enduro event in fifth position overall, fourth place in the Silver Cup.
While it is another strong result for the British-based team, the actual performance gains across the board were not reflected in the final position. In very different conditions to the last visit to the circuit, the drivers and team found a good setup forward on the McLaren and were able to run with the very best throughout the race but ultimately lost out on an outright podium having opted to run long in terms of strategy.
Qualifying saw Lewis and Ollie record a combined lap time good enough for seventh position on the grid for round six of the championship, the former admitting he did not get the best from the session. Lewis went on to make a good start and ran down the inside into the first turn, while others went for the outside line and made contact and subsequently found the gravel trap on the outside of Redgate.
This was the one-and-only safety car period of the day, something that would later hinder the team’s strategy on a day where three driver changes were mandated. It was a strong opening run from Lewis, however, running fourth from the first turn and making gains for track position as the stint progressed. Ahead of the first driver change, the rookie GT3 racer ran second to the #78 of Rob Collard in a tight battle for track position.
The second phase of the race saw Ollie run a longer stint once again, moving from fourth position immediately after to the stop to the lead by lap 55 at half distance, whilst enjoying a 70-second gap to the field behind. Heading into the final hour of the race, there was however still no sign of the desired safety car and with two driver changes still to make, Ollie duly pitted and handed over to Lewis before the situation was reversed in the final 30 minutes, albeit now on used Pirelli rubber.
Ollie was then unfortunate to exit the pits the final time just behind the recovering #72 of Phil Keen, but again underlined his rising status as a top-line GT3 driver in staying with the Pro-racer in the final, frantic stages of the race.
Ultimately, the team finished in fifth position overall, fourth in Silver Cup, but despite being disappointed not to secure an overall podium, significant gains were made even if the strategy – in hindsight - perhaps didn’t deliver the potential result the team so deserved.
It’s only a short pause, as the team prepare for International GT Open next weekend at Monza, before returning to the British GT Championship at Snetterton on Saturday, October 3rd.
Shaun Goff, Optimum Motorsport Team Principal
“We qualified seventh but in honesty, we perhaps missed the peak performance with Lewis there, particularly in the last sector of the lap, so we knew we had the potential to move forward. We opted with the strategy to go long with both Lewis and Ollie, to capitalise on safety car interventions. Lewis did a great job to gain positions at the start and to avoid incidents into turn one and then we just didn’t get any further safety cars which was unfortunate, while Ollie proved his pace against some of the best GT racers in the business.
“P5 was how it panned out with those longer stints and higher fuel loads on the tyres, and that’s probably where we just lost out on that podium position. Solid pitstops from the team and great pace from the drivers, so I think we have made another step forward with the 720S and it’s important to have that nice balance on the car.”
“We were P3, P2 and then leading for a while, so the pace from the car was really good and Ollie and I didn’t put a foot wrong today. It’s come together nicely in terms of feeding everything we have learned to date and then performing the way we have is so positive even if qualifying for me – was one of those messy sessions and to go purple on my in-lap was frustrating and I need to work on exploiting the new tyre grip further going forward.
“The race was good, chasing the Lambo ahead that has so much traction, but we were so much better on the brakes and it’s testament to SRO, that’s exactly what Balance of Performance is all about. Strategy - hindsight is everything - there were two directions to go and we went one way, but ultimately it didn’t pay off for us today. It’s a solid weekend and we ultimately didn’t get the result we deserved.”
“We are happy with the result, having made some big steps with the car. It’s a new car for us as a team, so we’re all on a learning curve. I’ve spent time working with McLaren and with Rob [Bell] and I am learning a lot and it’s amazing to have been taken under their wing in this way.
“This enabled me to arrive here at Donington with more knowledge than I’ve had at some other events this year and that helped in me sitting down with the engineer and making a good plan throughout practice and then we stuck with that one setup and that has paid off for myself, Lewis and the team.”