McLaren Professional Driver, Ollie Wilkinson will make his Total 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps debut on 22-25 October, where he, Rob Bell and Joe Osborne will give the McLaren 720S GT3 its maiden outing in the 72nd running of the twice around the clock endurance race.
Wilkinson, age 24 from Leeds, takes on the historic event with the Yorkshire-based Optimum Motorsport outfit, as part of his inaugural season contesting the GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS.
Although a newcomer to the championship’s flagship event, Wilkinson is no stranger to the iconic Belgian track, which ranks as his all-out favourite. It was around the undulating 7km circuit that Wilkinson claimed his maiden outright British GT Championship victory with a pole-to-flag performance alongside Bradley Ellis last year, having also scored a break-through International GT Open Pro-Am win there the previous summer.
Since his last Spa encounter, Wilkinson has claimed the 2019 British GT Silver Cup title,
earned BRDC Rising Star status and become a McLaren Professional Driver – all achieved since he started racing in 2017.
It’s been an encouraging inaugural GT World Challenge Europe season so far, as Ollie competes amongst the world’s elite GT racers alongside McLaren Factory Drivers, Bell and Osborne. The trio have already earnied two top-ten finishes at Imola and the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit in the Endurance Cup to date – both the result of storming drives through the fiercely competitive 40+ car field in the Y.CO – The Yacht Company-backed McLaren.
The championship’s headline spectacle in the Ardennes, however, will be Wilkinson’s
biggest challenge yet. Not least because the 2020 edition of this world-famous event will be the first to take place during the autumn months. Whilst that throws up some interesting factors, not least cooler air temperatures and longer night running, that won’t stop the staggering 56 entries across 11 manufacturers hunting for a place in the history books.
It’s a challenge Wilkinson will relish. “It’s unbelievable to be heading into my first Spa 24 Hours, racing for McLaren – it’s going to be one hell of an experience,” explains Ollie. “For me, there’s nothing like Spa; driving there is incomparable to any other circuit. Add to that the nature of this historic event and it’s like nothing I’ve tackled before.
“Everything we’ve done so far has been working towards this weekend, I’ve prepared as much as I can but there’s no better way to learn than in the race itself. The majority of the field will have far more experience than I have, but I’ve got a lot of people around me – not least Rob and Joe – to support me through my first 24-hour race.
“The race being held in October for the first time is a great leveller for everyone. The official test last month was really positive and great preparation, but I’m not underestimating how tough it will be. For me, just to finish at my first attempt would be an achievement. That said, I’m ready to grab every opportunity!”
Wilkinson’s debut Total 24 Hours of Spa duties start with official practice on Thursday. The real business begins at 18:55hrs that evening, with the first qualifying session to determine grid slots 21 to 56. Super Pole qualifying at 17:30 on Friday will then set the first 10 rows.
The 2020 Total 24 Hours of Spa starts at 15:30hrs on Saturday and, due to the end of Central European Summer Time falling at 03:00, conclude at 14:30 on Sunday. Live coverage is available throughout via GT World Challenge Europe’s website, YouTube and social media channels.
Photo credit: Xynamic Automotive Photography