Wilkinson & Ellis battle through bruising Hungarian weekend

Rising British sportscar star Ollie Wilkinson is hoping that Lady Luck returns to back his International GT Open bid after he and team-mate Bradley Ellis were forced to battle against the odds in two tough races at the Hungaroring. 

Heading into the fourth round of the GT Open season, the Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 crew were sitting inside the top six in the Pro-Am championship order, but struggled to make inroads after having to deal with a range of issues in both races in Hungary.

Saturday was all about forward momentum, with the duo salvaging valuable points after a difficult start to the day.

Ollie took the wheel of the Audi for the saturated qualifying in the morning. Having never raced the R8 in the wet before, Ollie battled on to set a time good enough for 10th in the Pro-Am order, and was on for an even better lap when a red flag and the return of heavy rain ended any hope of improvement.

Ollie took the start of the opening 70-minute race, and quickly made his mark in the dry, keeping a cool head and picking his moments superbly to work up the order from 21st overall on the grid to run 14th overall and eighth in Pro-Am when he pitted to hand over to Ellis.

With the change taking place in a crowded pit lane, the team sent the car out a fraction of a second too quickly, meaning Ellis was lumbered with a two-second penalty that would be added to his race time at the end.

Despite the censure, Ellis put in a commanding stint, scorching into the top 10 and running as high as fifth in Pro-Am before the additional two seconds dropped him back to sixth and 11th overall at the finish.

Things looked brighter, literally, for Sunday’s outing. Ellis put the car second in the Pro-Am classification and seventh overall on the grid in the sunny qualifying session, but things quickly took a turn for the worse.

Ellis got a good start, but was hit from behind in the early laps, with the contact also pin-balling him into another car. While the damage to the Audi wasn’t race-ending, it did block the cooling duct to the front-right brake.

With his brakes overheating, Ellis held on to a podium place for much of the opening stint before eventually succumbing to pressure from Raffaele Giammaria’s Lamborghini Huracan.

Ollie took the car over for the second half, and put in an impressive performance to steer the hobbled R8 home fifth in class.

The results mean that Ollie and Brad leave round four trailing the Pro-Am class leader, Fabrizio Crestani and Miguel Ramos, by 26 points.

The next round will take place on Ollie and Brad’s home turf however, at Silverstone on September 1/2.

Ollie Wilkinson:
“It was ultimately a frustrating weekend, because we seemed to have a lot of issues that were beyond our control. I’ve never driven the Audi in the wet before, and qualifying on Saturday was properly wet, so it was a big challenge. I was a bit gutted at losing a much better lap to the red flag, but that’s racing sometimes. For the race it was just all about keeping calm and clawing it back. A few people hit trouble ahead of me and I kept things steady and took the gaps that I could. Sixth is very handy considering where we started.

“Sunday was disappointing. There wasn’t much I could do with hardly any brakes, so I simply had to try and soak up as much pressure as I could. We could have had better this weekend but Lady Luck wasn’t with us. Hopefully she’s back for Silverstone.”

Bradley Ellis:
“We weren’t on the podium this weekend and we didn’t close the championship gap, so we’ve got to be a little disappointed with how Hungary went. But we can also take heart that we twice finished in the points under difficult circumstances.

“Race one was all about damage limitation. The start was a bit rough and tumble, but Ollie did brilliantly to see his way through it. On the stop we had to make a call – it was either lose five seconds stationary boxed into the pit as it was so busy or try to get out bang on, and we just mistimed it, which was a shame.

“Once I got hit at the start of race two the brakes were overheating so badly that I just couldn’t attack. They were on fire at the pit stop. Braking is the biggest strength of the Audi, so with that gone we were really up against it. We’ll move on from this and come back fighting at Silverstone.”

Photo credit: FotoSpeedy

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