Ollie Wilkinson returns to International GT Open action this weekend (21-22 September) and heads back to Barcelona – the circuit where he first made his series debut just two years ago – eager to bounce back from a disappointing last home round with a return to the podium at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
The BRDC Rising Star has already had a GT Open season to remember, in what is only his second year competing in the series and third year of racing. So far, the 23 year-old Yorkshireman has been promoted to a Silver-grade driver, earned his first Pro class podium and taken his maiden outright race victory in the GT Open’s 200th anniversary race aboard the Optimum Motorsport-run Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
But, after the highs of the fourth round in Austria, came the lows of the Optimum outfit’s home race at Silverstone earlier this month, where he and Aston Martin works driver Darren Turner were forced to record a rare non-finish in race one due to first-lap contact. Things then went from bad to worse when Ollie was knocked into a spin whilst completing a move for the final place on the podium, just a few corners from the flag, in race two.
With a switch of class and graduation from Pro-Am to professional driver status after the season start, Ollie and the Optimum outfit always knew the championship title wouldn’t fall within their reach this year. However, despite disappointment at Silverstone and missing the Spa-Francorchamps round, due to a clash with the British GT Championship, Ollie still lies sixth in the standings.
The GT Open title may not be the focus, but Wilkinson and Turner are intent on reinstating their place on the outright podium in the four remaining races, and, judging by Wilkinson’s previous successes, Barcelona should once again be a happy hunting ground.
It was where he made his GT Open debut in late 2017, where he and team-mate Bradley Ellis narrowly missed out on Pro-Am class victory. Twelve months later and the duo returned to the circuit to seal their debut season of competition together with a second-place Pro-Am podium. Ollie and 2019 co-driver, triple Le Mans winner Turner will be gunning for a similar haul of results in the penultimate round of the year.
Wilkinson comments: “Barcelona was the first place I ever raced a GT3 car, the Audi R8 LMS, and we just missed out on a Pro-Am class win on my GT Open race debut. We gained another second place there last year, so I’m hopeful of a third return to the podium!
“Silverstone was a tough weekend but that’s firmly behind us and we’re hungry to make up for lost points. Our recent test in Barcelona – our first running there in the Aston – was encouraging and we learnt a few things to take forward into the race. But a clean and clear qualifying session will be key for us. We’ve had issues in the last two, including a broken subframe, which has stopped us from maximising the opportunity. That said, I’m really pleased with how my form is progressing, I was just a couple of tenths off Darren’s pace in Q2 at Silverstone.
“With just four GT Open races left, we might be outside the title fight but we still want to pick up points and climb the order. It would be good to take another outright win, then a few more podiums would be nice. Most importantly, we want good, clean racing – not what we saw at Silverstone – and have some clean results that allow us continue our progression and development.”
The penultimate round of the GT Open season at Barcelona starts with qualifying at 10:55 followed by race one at 16:10 (local time) on Saturday, 21 September. The action continues on Sunday with qualifying at 09:30 ahead of the final, 60-minute race of the weekend at 14:20. All sessions will be aired live via the series website GTOpen.net live timing is available at http://online.cronococa.com
Photo credit: Gary Parravani