Ollie Wilkinson is ready to wrap up his 2019 racing season and first year driving the new Aston Martin Vantage GT3 this weekend, as he heads to Monza, Italy, for the final round of the International GT Open series with Optimum Motorsport.
The 23-year-old Yorkshireman makes for the Italian F1 circuit off the back of a fighting fifth place at the penultimate round at Barcelona last month, where Wilkinson and team-mate, Aston Martin works driver Darren Turner, climbed 11 places to sit on the verge of podium contention. The impressive result went some way to easing the disappointment of a broken front stub axle, which forced their race one retirement.
Wilkinson and multiple Le Mans winner Turner aim to carry that fifth place momentum on to a clean sweep of top-scoring results at the final outing of the year. Despite skipping a round of the fiercely competitive European GT championship, due to a clash with Wilkinson’s British GT commitments, and promotion from Pro-Am to the top-level Pro category mid-season, the BRDC Rising Star still sits sixth in the standings.
Although forced to record two rare non-finishes this term, Wilkinson’s rank reflects an impressive year that has netted a maiden outright Pro class win and third-place podium, plus a second place in Pro-Am, earned prior to his driver grading upgrade.
While fifth in the title fight may be out of reach, Ollie will be aiming to ease clear of seventh place threats, the SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes pairing of Tom Onslow-Cole and Valentin Pierburg, to cement his top six status in Italy.
The GT Open season finale will mark Wilkinson and Turner’s first outing at the Monza Eni Circuit, universally regarded as one of the fastest tracks in the world, with the new Optimum-run Aston Martin. The duo will be making the most of the two test days preceding the double-header event, on Thursday and Friday, to put them in the best possible shape for qualifying on Saturday morning, ahead of the first, 70-minute race of the weekend.
Wilkinson and Turner will then complete their first GT Open series campaigning the #96 Aston with a further qualifying session and 60-minute race on Sunday.
“I’m feeling good ahead of our final race of the season,” said Ollie. “I love Monza, it’s a great track steeped in history, so a pretty cool place to go racing and finish off the year. The last race at Barcelona, going from 16th to almost fight for a podium, should hopefully help to make it a positive weekend. That result and making more great steps forward with the new car’s core set-up gives us a good confidence boost heading to Italy.
“The extra test day is going to be really handy to tweak the set-up and make the most of new tyres, to give us the best shot at qualifying. It would be nice to finish the year and first season racing with Darren in this series on a high and cement sixth in the driver standings.”
The final GT Open outing of 2019 begins with qualifying at 10:05 on Saturday, September 12th, preceding the first race of the weekend at 15:15. Qualifying on Sunday takes place at 10:05 ahead of the final foray of the season at 14:50 (all times local). Follow all the action via the live stream available from the series website at gtopen.net
Photo credit: Gary Parravani