Budding Leeds professional driver, Ollie Wilkinson started his dream motor racing career with a dominant maiden pole position on debut at Oulton Park this weekend, topping the Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge timesheets by a staggering 1.123 seconds as the 20-year-old mounts his first full season of motorsport competition.
Although a pole-to-podium finish was too much to ask, Wilkinson continued to astound with a pair of strong fifth-place finishes at the challenging Cheshire circuit on Easter Monday. His outstanding debut performance leaves the young Yorkshireman lying fourth in the Ginetta GT5 championship standings, among a 26-strong field of vastly more experienced drivers.
Despite arriving at Oulton Park with just one notable race performance to his credit, Wilkinson stunned the opposition by topping the timing screens as early as lap 3 of the opening qualifying session of 2017. By far the quickest of the field in damp conditions, Ollie set a string of best laps and purple sectors before securing pole one second clear of nearest rival, Max Bird.
Disappointingly, Ollie was denied the opportunity to mount his round one race challenge from the front of the field when a clutch issue resulted in a slow getaway. Mounting a comeback drive from 10th position, the Optimum Motorsport driver took Simon Traves at Lodge Corner on lap two for ninth and moved up to eighth the following tour, all the while closing on Luke Pinder ahead.
Closing to within 0.4 seconds of the #55 car by the end of lap five, Ollie made his move for seventh heading down to Cascades on lap six and went on to pick up two further places to finish fifth at the flag.
Clean away for the second race of the weekend to hold sixth heading into Old Hall Corner, a lightening opening lap charge saw Ollie take Alex Toth-Jones and Traves to lie fourth by the time the pack arrived at Shell Oils Corner for the first time. Hot on the heels of Nick Zapolski, Wilkinson even threatened to pass for a place on the podium with a challenge at Cascades on lap two, only for Zapolski to re-take third heading into Island Bend.
Although staying in contention with the leading trio in the opening stages, a forced late change to wet tyres on a dry set-up whilst held in the Assembly Area meant Wilkinson’s tyres were soon overheating. Although unable to hold off a charging Lewis Brown, who nipped past to take fifth on lap four, Ollie kept his cool to stay clear of battling duo, Ryan Hadfield and Traves, to secure his second fifth place finish of the weekend.
Ollie commented: “Heading into my first event in my first season of racing, I didn’t dream I’d be walking away from Oulton Park with a maiden career pole position, two fifth place finishes and fourth in the championship table.
“I managed to put a near-on perfect qualifying lap together, just five hundredths of a second off my ideal time. It was a shame I had the issue with the clutch in race one, as we dropped ten positions off the line, but I just kept it together and made my way back through field. To take another fifth place in race two, despite a leaking damper and running wet tyres on a dry set-up, finished off the weekend in style.
“I’ve learnt so much this weekend and my performance gives me a lot more confidence and knowledge to carry through to the next rounds. Massive thanks to Optimum Motorsport for an outstanding job all weekend and to my sponsors, IntechnologyWiFi and My Possible Self, for their invaluable support. It’s been a dream start to my motorsport career.”
With round three at Oulton Park cancelled due to timetable restrictions, Ollie will continue his Ginetta GT5 Challenge mission at Rockingham, Northamptonshire, on 29/30 April 2017.
For full Oulton Park race results visit www.tsl-timing.com