WILKINSON & ELLIS CROWNED BRITISH GT SILVER CUP CHAMPIONS AT BRANDS HATCH
Ollie Wilkinson and Optimum Motorsport team-mate Bradley Ellis have sealed the British GT Championship Silver Cup crown at Brands Hatch today, another second place class finish securing the title with a round to spare in the new generation Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
A newcomer to British GT in only his third season of racing, Wilkinson and co-driver Ellis have dominated the Silver Cup at their first attempt. Five class wins plus second places at Snetterton and around the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit this weekend leave the pair with an unassailable advantage ahead of the final round at Donington Park next month.
The duo’s outstanding performance this term also helps Optimum Motorsport secure a second consecutive British GT class title following the team’s outright championship honours last year.
The coveted accolade comes just two weeks after the pair took their maiden outright pole position and race victory at Spa-Francorchamps. This weekend started in the same vein, with Wilkinson setting provisional pole for the second consecutive British GT event, his best time of 1:25.533 placing him 0.048 seconds clear and leaving Ellis to cement a combined qualifying time of 2:50.676 to secure another front row start.
A repeat performance of their Spa dominance in Kent, however, was always going to be highly unlikely with a 20-second pitstop success penalty to serve for their Spa win, yet Wilkinson and Ellis delivered another gutsy performance.
A superb start from second on the grid saw Wilkinson take command of the 36-car field into Paddock Hill Bend and pull out a 2.1 second lead from the #47 TF Sport Aston Martin and #2 Balfe Motorsport McLaren by the end of lap one of the two-hour feature race.
From there, Ollie insisted on extending his advantage with every tour of the 2.4-mile iconic Grand Prix circuit to lie 5.1 seconds clear after just five laps before traffic would become a factor on the tight and undulating track. Although the gap ebbed and flowed as Wilkinson worked his way through the GT4 backmarkers, he retained a comfortable buffer to the two-car fight behind until an unexplained spin heading out of Paddock Hill Bend dropped him to fourth on lap 14.
A 20-minute safety car period followed, after a heavy off for the #7 Team Parker Racing Bentley, leaving the Optimum car stuck behind a gaggle of GT4 cars and losing precious time at the restart. With the leaders firmly out of reach and Silver Cup rivals Ryan Ratcliffe and Glynn Geddie out of the running, Wilkinson focused his attentions on securing the Silver Cup title while retaining fourth overall ahead of the compulsory stops.
With the pitstop success penalty served, Ellis joined the fray in tenth. Coming fresh into the event with absolutely no testing time aboard the all-new Aston Martin Vantage GT3, the #96 car seem to struggle for a manageable set-up in the latter race stages with tyre degradation becoming an increasing factor.
Yet Ellis expertly managed his stint to ensure the Optimum outfit could walk away with the Silver Cup spoils and still be in the fight for the outright championship crown at the final British GT showdown on 14-15 September at Donington Park.
“It’s unbelievable to be crowned British GT Silver Cup champions,” exclaimed Ollie. “We didn’t dream we’d be able to achieve this at the start of my debut year in the series, racing the completely new Aston Martin Vantage GT3. To have made the progress we have and have the results to match is amazing.
“Our overall race today was a bit tougher. We’ve never even tested the car here before, so our first running was in Friday practice on old tyres, yet we still managed to take provisional pole in Q1 and end up P2. To take a stab at the set-up and put the car on the front row is a massive credit to the team.
“I made a strong start and that really paid off. From there I was able to get my head down and pull out a gap, but then I had a really strange spin. I hadn’t driven the corner any differently so whether there was some fluid down, we’re not sure. It’s just unfortunate we didn’t have an opportunity to test here beforehand so we could optimise the set-up with the tyres. We struggled a bit but overall it’s been a positive weekend and an amazing job by the team. The Silver Cup title is so well deserved for us all.”
Team-mate Ellis adds: “It’s great to be Silver Cup champions with a round in hand. It’s been mega, Ollie’s performance has been outstanding all year and it’s only his first year in British GT, he really has shone. Take qualifying yesterday, his final lap was spot on and to come out on top of his session once again, following pole at Spa, is fantastic. But there’s still more we want out of this year, we still want to be fighting for the overall championship. That’s looking like a big ask for Donington Park but we can still fight and, if nothing else, ensure we’re still in the outright top three. Heading there as Silver Cup champions will certainly boost our confidence and it should be a great end to the year.”
Photo credit: Gary Parravani
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