Tough weekend brings little reward for Optimum Motorsport at Brands Hatch
Optimum Motorsport has enjoyed a string of podium positions this year in the Intelligent Money British GT Championship, but round five of the series this weekend at Brands Hatch unfortunately brought little in terms of results after a frustrating run in qualifying and then a disappointing race yielding 11th position overall, seventh position in class.
Fielding the #96 McLaren 720S GT3 with Silver-Silver pairing Ollie Wilkinson and Lewis Proctor, the British-based team tested in the wet ahead of the race weekend and then worked through the Saturday practice sessions, making adjustments to the improving track conditions as they did so.
Qualifying however set the tone for the rest of the event, with Lewis and Ollie setting a cumulative best for ninth overall, sixth in class. Some changes ahead of the final 15-minute warm-up seemed to help in terms of pure lap time and the team were hopeful that they would make gains in the two-hour race.
Lewis took the first stint, maintaining his position from the rolling start to run ninth overall. Issues for rivals Andrew Howard and Jack Mitchell meanwhile moved him up the order to run in seventh position, fifth in class. The very nature of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit however made it all but impossible for further gains.
Lewis spent much of his stint seeking a way by the #18 Lamborghini of Michael Igoe but the WPI Motorsport driver stuck to his line and ensured that there was simply no way to pass. A mid-race Safety Car provided the ideal opportunity for all of the GT3 runners to pit, having completed the mandated 62-minutes of the race.
Ollie took over the driving duties, exiting the pits again behind the #18, now driven by Frank Perera. Behind, the British racer was also getting plenty of attention from the #8 of Richard Neary and then in the latter stages from #30 Sennan Fielding. A second Safety Car with 20-minutes remaining saw the field bunch up, but unfortunately for Ollie, he had four GT4 cars between him and Perera ahead.
The restart saw Ollie make the pass on the first GT4, but the timing of the run earned him a drive-through penalty, having been adjudged to have made the pass before the Safety Car line. This dropped Ollie to 11th overall, seventh in class – a position he would hold to the chequered flag.
The team now prepare for next weekend’s GT World Challenge Europe event at Nurburgring, Germany and will be back in action in the British GT Championship at Donington Park on September 19-20.
“On the positive, we improved the car over the weekend and found some time after qualifying but then the race was difficult. The nature of Brands Hatch means it is so hard to overtake and I couldn’t really do anything in terms of gaining positions in my stint. Then we got the drive-through in the second stint, so a real shame not to get any points. At least it’s only a few weeks until the next race.”
“This has been a difficult weekend from the start. We didn’t have any major issues, but equally nothing would go our way. Qualifying left us on the back foot but we were still hopeful we could regain some ground and make the 1.5 points multiplier count. But that’s racing, we’ll put this one behind us, regroup and come back stronger, firstly for GT World Challenge Europe next weekend, and then back to British GT at Donington Park later next month.”
Shaun Goff, Optimum Motorsport Team Principal
“Ultimately this difficult race comes from qualifying – arguably not helped by the limited track time we get at this particular circuit – but we didn’t maximise that session, so we started out of position. Starting P9 makes it very difficult so we must work harder on our qualifying preparation. Looking back at Oulton Park, we qualified well and that meant we had a good race, so if we unlock the potential in qualifying, the result will come naturally.”