Ollie Wilkinson and teammate Bradley Ellis notched up Silver Cup win number three at Snetterton this weekend, cementing their lead at the top of the British GT Championship class title fight while notching up seventh and eighth place finishes overall in the all-new Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT3.
The Optimum Motorsport duo, however, came agonisingly close to a repeat of their opening-round outright podium, but for the smallest miscalculation – of six thousandths of a second – in the race one pit stop stripping them of their chances.
Ollie opened the second round battles with a blistering third-row start for the first race of the weekend, surging through to fourth at Riches before picking off Sam De Haan in the Barwell Lamborghini for third on the run down to Palmer.
As leaders Glynn Geddie and Tom Gamble stretched ahead, Wilko headed the fight for third. While De Haan, Dominic Paul and Adam Balon jostled for position in the pursuing pack, Ollie remained un-phased through the re-shuffle behind him. Although Balon picked up where De Haan left off to apply pressure on the Optimum-run Aston Martin, Wilkinson had equal reply and set his personal fastest lap ahead of the pit stops and driver change.
Back in the race with 36 minutes remaining, Ellis immediately joined a three-way fight for the outright lead behind Jack Mitchell, now in the #9 Century Motorsport BMW, and Phil Keen in the #72 Barwell Lamborghini. But, as Ellis moved up to second, the Optimum car was forced to serve a penalty for a short pit stop, 0.006 of a second shy of the mandatory time. The resulting one-second stop-go penalty lost a total of 27 seconds, putting paid to their podium chances.
Determined to salvage a strong result, Ellis re-joined in eighth place with 26 minutes left on the clock to close a 14 second gap to the car ahead. Slicing that deficit in half within three laps, the former series champion slashed Adam Wilcox’s advantage in the WPI Motorsport Lamborghini down to a second with 10 minutes to go. Applying pressure while fending off the fellow Aston Martin of Nicki Thiim, Ellis moved up a further spot to finish seventh, second in the Silver Cup.
Ellis delivered another strong start for race two on Sunday afternoon, taking ninth at Riches to lead the Silver Cup. As the 36-car field settled into the second one-hour battle of the weekend, Bradley sat comfortably within the early-race eight-car train fighting for fourth, chasing Jonny Adam while edging away from Silver Cup rival, Mitchell.
Although a fresh attack came from Marco Sørensen in the #99 Aston Martin, Ellis was able to manage the gap to the gaggle behind and remained unchallenged before pitting to handover to Ollie.
Losing a place in the pit stops, however, meant Wilkinson joined the fray down one place in 10th, chasing the #99 Beechdean car. That was until the British GT newcomer was able to capitalise on a run wide from Andrew Howard to re-take ninth with 17 minutes to go.
‘Wilko’ then proceeded to peg down Paul in the #3 Century Motorsport BMW while keeping Gamble in the sister Century car at bay, as a three-way fight for eighth unfolded in the closing stages. Despite Ollie applying constant pressure, the trio held position but all moved up a slot at the flag, by virtue of Rick Parfitt Jnr’s drop down the order, leaving Ollie to take a third Silver Cup win of the season and seventh overall.
Ollie Wilkinson: “I got a super start for race one, I managed to get away and pick off quite a few places to put us in podium contention. It was such a shame that we lost the chance to continue that fight as the pit stop penalty cost us dear, but Brad did a great job to bring us back to seventh. Our race pace seems fairly strong but we’re struggling to piece everything together in qualifying and that’s hurting us at the moment. We’ve definitely improved since Oulton Park but we’re not yet where we want to be.
“I was piling the pressure on the Century BMW hoping he’d make a mistake in race two, but with the extra weight I couldn’t do anything. It’s great to pick up another Silver Cup win and put some solid overall points in the bag. We miss the next round at Silverstone but we’ll look forward to fighting back to podium form at Donington Park.”
Bradley Ellis: “We’ve certainly made another performance step forward this weekend, we just didn’t get the results we deserved. We should’ve had another podium but the smallest of mistakes with our pit stop calculations handed us a penalty, but we’ve already learnt from that as a team and changed our pit protocol to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“We showed great pace in race one but qualifying didn’t go to plan for race two, which put us on the back foot and it was hard to make progress. Overall, we’re happy with our improvements and confident we can take another step forward. If we can just have a repeat of our race one performance, we’ll be a lot more in the mix. I’m really looking forward to the next couple of rounds.”
Photo credit: Gary Parravani / Xynamic