Ollie Wilkinson and the JOTA squad were denied the chance to battle for another Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS top-10 finish at Hockenheim after the #38 McLaren sustained a race-ending accident on the opening lap of the three-hour Endurance encounter.
Wilkinson’s teammate, Rob Bell, was thankfully unhurt when contact whilst running amongst the tightly packed field speared the McLaren 720S GT3 off and into the barriers at Turn 7. Bell had been running on the cusp of the top-10 of the 49-car field following a stellar start from 17th on the grid.
The JOTA team had been looking for a repeat of their eighth-place success in the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa in July. Wilkinson, together with Bell and Marvin Kirchhöfer were looking in good shape to do just that on their debut at the German circuit.
Getting to grips with the 4.5-km track throughout a very wet free practice session on Saturday morning, the trio made strong progress to lie P26 in an incredibly close pre-qualifying session, where less than one second covered the top 34 cars.
Qualifying on Sunday morning gave an indication of the team’s race potential. Following a solid first stint from Bell, Wilkinson’s set of flying laps earned 15th fastest in his session, in-turn promoting the #38 car from 29th to 19th. Kirchhöfer’s final run then sealed 17th on the grid for the series’ first ever race to be held at Hockenheim.
Taking on the starting duties on Sunday afternoon, Bell had already made up several places on the first few turns when contact from the #19 Emil Frey Lamborghini ended the JOTA team’s race before it had really begun.
“We’re all gutted, but the main thing is that Rob is ok. Once again, we are very grateful to McLaren for our carbon fibre safety cell,” said Wilkinson. “That was a really heavy impact and such a shame, because Rob had got us off to a brilliant start.
“We made some great gains as we all learned the circuit yesterday and everything started to come together in qualifying this morning. As we proved again at Spa, we can pull ourselves up the order in the thick of the race and I was really looking forward to seeing what we could do this afternoon.”
Wilkinson will be back for the final race of the season at Barcelona, Spain, 30th September – 2nd October.