Reigning Silver Cup champion, Ollie Wilkinson and team-mate Lewis Proctor delivered a superb recovery charge from the back of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship GT3 grid to finish second in class in the second-round battles at Donington Park.
The Optimum Motorsport duo also only narrowly missed out on a place on the overall race two podium, finishing an eventual fourth from 13th on grid in the Y.CO – The Yacht Company McLaren 720S GT3. The result more than made up for a disappointing qualifying session and a tricky first race in wet conditions at the Leicestershire track.
In the end, it all came down to the tyre choice for Sunday afternoon’s one-hour sprint race. The drivers and crew made the late call to switch to slick tyres on the grid, and although the first few laps proved entertaining, Wilkinson was soon able to make huge gains on the wet tyre-shod runners ahead as a dry line emerged.
Ten minutes into the 60-minute sprint and Wilkinson began to climb the order, picking off a place virtually every lap with masterful moves – not least around the outside of Yelmer Buurman’s #6 RAM Racing Mercedes at Redgate – to work his way up to seventh come lap 12. One lap later and Wilkinson seized the Silver Cup class lead from the #10 sister McLaren, before taking the Abba Racing Mercedes for fifth as the pit window opened.
Proctor picked up where Wilkinson left off with a just under 30 minutes remaining, but the return of drizzle soon re-ignited the fight for the Silver Cup lead. A thrilling battle played out with Proctor trading places with the Jordan Witt, in the #10 McLaren, whilst also passing father, Stuart, for a place in the top five, eventually settling for the team’s second Silver Cup podium in four races.
The outstanding race two result followed a hard-earned fifth in class in the earlier two-hour endurance race. Despite Wilkinson’s fantastic efforts to qualify second, and Proctor setting a time just two tenths slower, the pair started eighth on the grid on aggregate qualifying times for the wet two-hour endurance race on Sunday morning.
Despite the conditions being bad enough to warrant a safety car start, a trouble-free stint for Proctor brought him into sixth, and led the team to play a long-stint pit stop strategy. However, Wilkinson had little opportunity to take advantage due to suspension damage sustained shortly after taking over from Proctor, which would later cause him to lose track position. The Yorkshireman still managed to pick up invaluable points for fifth in class which, together with the race two points haul, leave the pair fourth in the Silver Cup title fight.
Buoyed by their sensational race two come-back drive, Wilkinson said: “What a rollercoaster weekend. Donington Park has a habit of dishing out some hard races for me, and this weekend was arguably the toughest. To come back from such a tricky qualifying and first race to start 13th and finish on the cusp of the podium is fantastic.
“It was a tricky start in race two with the GT4 cars on our tails. It wasn’t where we wanted to be and it was 50/50 on tyre choice, but as we were last of the GT3s we had nothing to lose. We took a gamble and it paid off. We certainly came back strong at the end of the weekend and made great progress to carry on to Brands Hatch.”
Wilkinson and Proctor now look forward to round three of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship around the iconic Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, on 29-30 August.