Spa successes yield further GT Open silverware for Optimum Motorsport
The penultimate rounds of the International GT Open championship this weekend (16-18 October) at Spa-Francorchamps may have brought all-nighters for Optimum Motorsport, but ultimately the hard work paid dividends with the team taking the runner-up class position in the first race and then on Sunday, the top step of the Pro-Am podium.
The team again fielded the #7 McLaren 720S GT3 for Ollie Millroy / Brendan Iribe, and the sister #72 entry for Joe Osborne / Nick Moss. Both sides of the garage enjoyed success once again with Ollie and Brendan tasting Champagne on the Saturday, while Joe and Nick, stood on the top step of the podium on Sunday after another impressive performance.
The opening day of the race weekend saw the team take part in the three hours of practice, conserving tyres for much of it ahead of Saturday’s all-important qualifying session. A rare engine failure ensured that the #7 crew worked through the night to ready the McLaren for Saturday qualifying.
The team opted to split strategy with Ollie qualifying the #7 McLaren and Nick the #72 to record the fifth and 12th best times respectively overall for the 70-minute race. It proved to be quite a dramatic one for the #7 duo of Ollie and Brendan.
The former made best of opportunities on the opening lap to vault third overall, second in the Pro-Am class with a move down the inside into La Source. Ollie kept the pressure on the leading two cars ahead before gaining second position on track when the #26 of Fabrizio Crestani pitted early.
Keeping race leader Stephane Ortelli within striking distance, whilst fending off the advances from Louis Prette from behind, the McLaren Pro driver completed an excellent stint to hand over the Red 720S GT3 to Brendan at the head of the field.
Brendan, still in his first season at this level, was naturally soon under pressure from the factory racers from behind. Having been forced to yield positions, he started the final lap just ahead of the #20 of Nick Foster. A late lunge from the Australian driver saw the two cars make contact at the final corner, halting Brendan on the spot. He was able to resume, finishing seventh overall, third in class.
A post-race penalty found the Mercedes driver to blame and ultimately, Brendan was handed back the hard-earned second position in the Pro-Am class. The #72 pairing of Nick and Joe meanwhile battled throughout the race, eventually taking the chequered flag in ninth place overall, fifth in the Pro-Am class on a day where they had hoped for a stronger result.
They didn’t need to wait long either; Sunday brought success off the back of a raft of setup changes made overnight. Joe qualified in seventh position overall and a lightening getaway from the start saw him jump to fifth position, ahead of the #20 SPS Mercedes and #16 McLaren, to take the class lead.
The next target ahead was the #26 Bentley and by lap nine, Joe had secured the position before pitting and handing over to teammate. The setup changes certainly suited Nick, as he put in an excellent stint, withstanding pressure from the #20 Mercedes of Valentin Pierburg to take the Pro-Am victory, fifth position overall.
The #7 Optimum Crew worked late into Saturday night once again and Brendan subsequently put in by far his best qualifying performance of the season to start in tenth position, sixth in the Pro-Am battle. The start saw him gain a spot and with an eye on the rear view monitor, did an excellent job in keeping the #97 Aston Martin of Ahmad Al Harthy behind through the stint. Ollie took over for the run to the flag, closed and passed the #16 McLaren to finish in fourth position in class, eighth overall.
Following a weekend at Spa-Francorchamps that brought two podium positions, Optimum Motorsport now turn their attention to next weekend’s race at the very same venue. The 24 Hours of Spa.
Shaun Goff, Optimum Motorsport Team Principal
“It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster of a weekend, but I’m proud of the team and the effort that has gone in it. Brendan, Ollie, Joe and Nick have had their ups and downs over the three days, while the car #7 crew have had a few challenging nights but we were rewarded with the second position in race one and we just missed out on a second podium today in the second race.
“From a difficult race one for Nick and Joe, they and the team worked overnight on making car changes to ensure that they finished the weekend strongly. And that they did, so to finish with not only another podium, but a P1 in class, is great for us in the championship [P3, nine points behind Marcelo Hahn] as well.”
#72 Joe Osborne, #72 McLaren 720S GT3
“It has been two very differing days from Saturday to Sunday, and we finish on a high and that’s great to take away from the weekend. Saturday and the first race was really difficult for us as the car wasn’t in a setup window to make either of us happy. That’s completely my responsibility as the Pro in the team, so I was annoyed with myself rather than the team after the first race.
“We regrouped overnight as a team and engineering wise, making many changes to the #72 McLaren and then we were back. My qualifying for Sunday was a bit average, but then in the race the car was so much better and gave myself and Nick the confidence to put in the fast and consistent lap times that were so crucial in the overall result.”
Ollie Millroy, #7 McLaren 720S GT3
“It is great to have such a massive push from everyone at the team to make this programme happen for Brendan and me. The #7 crew team have been brilliant all weekend long and have worked flat out with no mistakes. I don’t think they ever got to sleep! We had an engine change on Friday night which kept them up until 6am Saturday. Then a clutch and gearbox change last night into the early hours of Sunday.
“They were spot on and also credit to McLaren who last night spent the time to look at the traction control systems and that helped us in the race. The passion and energy from the team has been unbelievable this weekend and Brendan today [Sunday] put in his best ever qualifying session, his lap times were sensational against the Pro-drivers. A massively positive weekend.”