Ollie Wilkinson will take the step up to European-wide GT3 competition this season, contesting the majority of International GT Open rounds paired with multiple sportscar champion, Bradley Ellis, aboard the Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS.
The 21 year-old Yorkshireman makes the move just one year after first mounting his mission to build a professional sportscar career, with the dream of one day racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. More than proving his potential in his maiden season of competition, Ollie ranked third in the 2017 Ginetta GT5 Challenge title fight, earning three pole positions, six podiums, five fastest laps and 17 out of 19 top-10 finishes among a 27+ strong grid.
Wilkinson has already shown he’s ready to graduate to GT3 machinery, having signed-off his stellar rookie year with a second-place Pro-Am podium finish on his International GT Open debut in Barcelona last October, his first time pairing with Ellis in the Audi R8. Now, with the valued backing of sponsor, My Possible Self – the innovative mental health self-help app, Ollie is set to return to the series for all but one of the 2018 events.
The move up to permanent GT3 competition will still be a huge leap for the newcomer. Switching from a 1.8-litre, 160bhp Ginetta GT5 to taming the 500+bhp, 305km/h topping V10 Audi R8 LMS, is no mean feat. Add to that the challenge of learning the car, mastering set-up, and adapting to a new one-hour endurance race format whilst learning Europe’s top tracks, and Ollie knows he faces the steepest learning curve of his short career.
With the unbridled support of Ellis, whose achievements include the British GT championship crown plus numerous race and class wins across FIA GT and British GT4, the duo have all the makings of becoming a formidable Pro-Am driver partnership.
Ollie commented: “Heading into my first year of GT3 competition brings a mixed bag of emotions. I know there’s a whole new road ahead and racing the Audi R8 LMS in the International GT Open series will be like nothing I’ve experienced before. It’s been a busy winter preparing to get myself physically and mentally ready to race at a completely new level. Pre-season testing has gone really well, I’ve learnt a lot about the car and set-up, but I’ve just scratched the surface. The real learning will come in race conditions. It’s fantastic to be racing alongside Bradley, we complement each other’s driving styles and can only get stronger as a driver pairing.”
Bradley Ellis, who has coached Ollie since he started racing, added: “This is a massive leap for Ollie in only his second year of racing, but we wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t ready. Ollie has been relentless in preparing for this, both mentally and physically he keeps upping his game. Limited testing on the championship tracks will be our biggest challenge, which may sometimes mean he has to learn the circuit in official practice. But, no matter what challenge I set Ollie, he gets his head around it and performs in such a short period of time. This year isn’t going to be any different.”
Ollie will open his debut International GT Open campaign at Estoril, Portugal, on 14-15 April 2018. Fans can follow the action with live race streaming available via the series’ YouTube channel and live timing from the series website. For full event information visit www.gtopen.net
Photo credit: Gary Parravani www.xynamic.com