Ollie Wilkinson will join multiple Le Mans-winning team JOTA for an attack on the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS championship this year, in what will be his first season as a McLaren Factory Driver.
Wilkinson will form part of an all-Factory Driver line-up, sharing a McLaren 720S GT3 with Ben Barnicoat and Rob Bell across both the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance and Sprint championships.
The young Yorkshireman’s promotion to a fully-fledged Factory Driver comes a year after his recruitment by McLaren Customer Racing as a Professional Driver in 2020, and just four years into his racing career.
In that short space of time, Wilkinson has won the British GT Silver Cup (in 2019), amassed numerous outright and class GT3 victories in the Pro-Am and Pro sportscar categories, and scored impressive top-10 results during select rounds of the 2020 GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup with McLaren Customer Racing Team, Optimum Motorsport.
Ollie’s rapid climb through the ranks of international sportscar racing also earned him the honour of full membership to the prestigious British Racing Drivers’ Club in January. Now, the 24-year-old will team up with Barnicoat and Bell to attack the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup, whilst Barnicoat and Wilkinson will also undertake Sprint Cup duties, amid JOTA’s first return to GT racing since 2012.
With a world-renowned sportscar pedigree, JOTA can already lay claim to two LMP2 victories in the Le Mans 24 Hours, and hold the honour of being the first LMP2 team to lead the iconic race outright – running so close to victory in 2017 – before finishing second and third overall. The Kent-based UK outfit has also amassed a plethora of ELMS and ALMS championship titles across the LMP2 and LMP3 categories.
“I’m incredibly proud to become a McLaren Factory Driver,” said Ollie. “It’s mind-blowing to have achieved this at such an early stage of my career. I thank McLaren for this opportunity and for putting so much belief in me.
“I couldn’t be more excited to join the JOTA team. Over the past two decades, they have proved they’ve got what it takes to win titles at every level and to be joining them as part of an all-McLaren Factory Driver line-up is epic. It’s great to have Ben and Rob as my team-mates and I hope between us we can get the job done.”
Ian Morgan, Director, McLaren Customer Racing, commented: “It’s tremendously exciting for us to have JOTA onboard for 2021, with three McLaren Factory Drivers also involved in the programme. The team’s vast experience and success in endurance racing and professionalism will, I’m confident, allow them to compete at the highest level throughout 2021 in the 720S GT3. I’m also delighted to see Oliver Wilkinson step up to a full McLaren Factory Driver programme this year, supported by both Rob Bell and Ben Barnicoat, and I look forward to watching his progression.”
David Clark, JOTA Co-Owner said: “Both McLaren and JOTA have similar DNA in the sense of a great depth in engineering capability and a winning mentality. Both my partner, Sam Hignett, and I have worked enormously hard to make JOTA not just a winning team but also a fun one to be around, so I think the collaboration between McLaren and JOTA together with three factory drivers will become a major force in GT racing.
“We are especially pleased to have Ollie Wilkinson in the JOTA team, he’s a talented young driver and we would like to help enhance his career in the way we have with Harry Tincknell, Mitch Evans, and Oliver Turvey to name but a few. In fact there are nine JOTA drivers in Formula E and we would like Ollie to be the next JOTA driver success story.”
2021 Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS – Provisional Calendar
Round 1 – 16-18 April – Endurance Cup – Monza, Italy
Round 2 – 7-9 May – Sprint Cup – Magny-Cours, France
Round 3 – 28-30 May – Endurance Cup – Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km, France
Round 4 – 18-20 June – Sprint Cup – Zandvoort, Netherlands
Round 5 – 2-4 July – Sprint Cup – Misano, Italy
Round 6 – 29 July-1 August – Total 24 Hours of Spa, Belgium
Round 7 – 3-5 September – Endurance Cup – Nürburgring, Germany
Round 8 – 25-26 September – Sprint Cup – Valencia, Spain
Round 9 – 8-10 October – Endurance Cup – Barcelona, Spain
TBD – Sprint Cup – Brands Hatch, Great Britain
Image: Khyzyl Saleem