Ollie Wilkinson and team-mate Lewis Proctor looked in a promising position to take another Intelligent Money British GT Championship podium this weekend. Their pace and potential, however, were left unrewarded following contact approaching the final 30 minutes of the flagship Silverstone 500 event.
The Optimum Motorsport duo had been on strong form all weekend, delivering one of their best qualifying performances in the McLaren 720S GT3 this term to secure sixth fastest, fourth in Silver Cup, out of the 37-strong Silverstone 500 field.
A stellar opening lap from McLaren Academy Driver Proctor soon got the #96 car up to fourth position before an early safety car presented the ideal opportunity to complete one of three compulsory pitstops and driver changes.
Restarting with Wilkinson at the wheel, the 24-year-old guided the Y.Co-The Yacht Company machine back into contention despite rear-end contact causing him to lose ground shortly after the restart. Undeterred, the McLaren Professional Driver hauled the #96 car back up from tenth and into the top six, third in Silver Cup, amid the Pro driver contingent come the second round of pitstops 60 minutes later.
Proctor took up where Wilkinson left off, continuing to climb the order to trail leader Rob Collard by less than two seconds before handing back to Ollie. Resuming the fight in fifth, Wilkinson was keen to regain podium position. When Ian Loggie made a mistake at the hairpin with just over 30 minutes to go, Ollie saw an opportunity to pass at Aintree. Too much kerb on the inside of the corner, however, unsettled the car and inadvertently caused contact with the #6 Mercedes. Although Ollie rejoined to finish the final race of the season, a 10-second stop-go penalty dropped the Optimum car down to finish 13th overall, eighth in class.
Despite the disappointing result, the Optimum duo demonstrated their pace as the quickest Silver Cup McLaren of the field, whilst no fewer than nine 720s GT3s contested the British GT Championship’s flagship three-hour endurance event.
Wilkinson and Proctor can still be proud of season highlights which include two outright podium finishes, with second in the first outing at Oulton Park and third last month at Donington Park, together with two trips to the Silver Cup rostrum this term.
Wilkinson commented: “We were looking so strong for a podium result today, so it’s such a shame for it to end this way. I didn’t want to waste any time in getting us back into the top three after the final round of stops and I thought the move was on to take Ian [Loggie], after he made a mistake at the harpin, but I took too much kerb and slid in to him.
“We had a great race before that, I was able to bring us up from P10 and into the top six, and Lewis did a great job of building on that. We were the strongest Silver McLaren and certainly had some pace behind us, so it’s disappointing that the result doesn’t reflect that or our efforts this year. The 720S GT3 was superb all weekend, so we at least showed British GT how strong our McLaren is and how far we’ve come this year. I can’t thank McLaren Automotive, McLaren Customer Racing and the team enough for all their hard work this season.”