Ollie Wilkinson delivered a gritty performance to overcome a roller-coaster first outing at Silverstone. Once again proving his pace with a third Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge pole position, the Leeds rookie racer fought back from race one disappointment to deliver two storming drives home to sixth and fourth place finishes.
Tackling his first qualifying session on the Grand Prix circuit, Wilkinson topped the timing screens from lap four, his best time of 2:27.100 securing his third pole position of his maiden racing season by 0.236 seconds.
From the Saturday morning pole ‘high’, Wilkinson endured a difficult first race of the weekend among a vast 48-car grid combining drivers from both the Ginetta GT5 Challenge and GRDC+ championships. Despite a strong front row start and opening lap vying for the lead with Lewis Brown, Wilkinson’s podium hopes were dashed when a rub pushed him wide exiting Vale before a rear impact sent him into a spin at Brooklands.
He dug deep to work his way up to seventh on lap two, only for contact amid the tight fight for fifth to force him back down the order. Despite another charge from 17th to 10th in two laps, a red flag stoppage due to a car stuck at Luffield meant his efforts were in vain and, on the count-back, classified 14th.
Intent on making the most of his seventh-row grid start for race two late on Sunday afternoon, the recently turned 21-year-old was on flying form. Picking his way through the pack at a rate of three cars a lap to lie seventh on lap three, he then slashed the 1.5 second gap to sixth before taking Matt Flowers on lap four. Although facing an impossible task of catching the fight for third five seconds ahead with just two laps to go, a stellar drive to record the second fastest race lap more than halved the deficit while pulling 7.4 seconds clear of seventh spot.
Back in the car barely 30-minutes later for a three-lap dash to the flag for the third and final race of the weekend, a superb start from fifth on the reverse grid put Ollie in immediate contention. Up to fourth and running four abreast down the Hangar Straight, an outstanding opening lap nailed third exiting Club before an awesome move heading onto the Wellington Straight secured second.
Immediately on terms with leader Luke Pinder, just 01.62 of a second separated the pair until they each ran wide (into Copse and Becketts respectively) and Wilkinson re-joined eighth. Far from finished, he unleashed a blistering last lap assault, moving up to seventh at Hangar Straight and past Katie Milner at Luffield, before a superb run on Simon Traves out of Brooklands snatched fifth at the flag by 0.104. With Pinder handed a post-race 10-second penalty, Wilkinson’s efforts were further rewarded with fourth.
“It’s been a roller coaster weekend,” said Wilkinson. “I was over the moon with my third pole position in four races but race one didn’t go to plan and I had to fight back from there. The raw pace is obviously there but I knew, in my first year of racing, I would have to work on my race craft, which is improving with every race. After a difficult race one I’m pleased to go home with sixth and fourth place finishes in the bag.”
For full race results visit www.tsl-timing.com
Photo credit: Jakob Ebrey