Ollie Wilkinson and team-mate Lewis Proctor delivered one of the best results of their Intelligent Money British GT Championship campaign, putting the McLaren 720S GT3 back in the overall top five after the three-hour showdown at Donington Park.
The Optimum Motorsport duo’s encouraging performance, which included Wilkinson leading for 40 minutes, also earned fourth in the Silver Cup. That, in turn, produced their best championship points haul since they scored second in class, fourth overall, on their last outing at the Leicestershire track a month ago.
Positive gains made during free practice got the weekend off to a positive start on Saturday, setting Ollie up to deliver his most satisfying series qualifying performance since Oulton Park, securing fourth fastest in class, seventh overall.
Taking on the starting honours ahead of the first three-hour battle of the season, Proctor did well to avoid the opening lap scuffle at Redgate to vault into fourth by the end of lap one. Once clear of the resulting brief safety car period, Proctor spent the rest of his stint hunting down Rob Collard’s Lamborghini Huracan, before pitting from second after 60 minutes of racing.
Wilkinson joined the fray and soon found himself sitting in the overall top three. An epic battle ensued, the McLaren Professional Driver doing a stellar job to stave off the RAM Racing Mercedes AMG, whilst keeping in reach of the #78 Lamborghini ahead of the next round of stops.
As the different strategies began to play out, Wilkinson moved his Y.Co – The Yacht Company McLaren into the lead at the halfway mark – a position he would flawlessly maintain for the next 40 minutes despite pressure from Sennen Fielding in the #30 Audi. Although Ollie eventually put a lap on the rest of the field before pitting, the Optimum car still had another mandatory stop to serve.
Proctor picked up where Wilkinson left off, taking over two seconds a lap out of the #72 Lamborghini’s 20-second advantage before successfully taking the lead at the Melbourne Hairpin ahead of Optimum’s final trip to pit lane.
With just one safety car in 2.5-hours of racing, the strategy didn’t quite bring the #96 car close enough to the outright podium in the final stops. However, Wilkinson continued a highly encouraging weekend to hold fifth unchallenged to the flag, in turn earning valuable points for fourth in Silver Cup.
“We’ve made some huge steps forward as drivers and a team this weekend and it’s great to bring the Optimum McLaren back into the top five,” said Wilkinson. “With a car that’s completely new to me, to my co-driver and the team, this year was always going to be a little bit tricky to get going.
“Since the last round, I’ve spent time working with McLaren, time just driving the car, and learnt a lot – it’s amazing to be under their wing. I came here with more knowledge of the car than I have at any previous round. I had a good sit down with our engineers, we tried a few things in practice, stuck with a good set-up and it paid off for us. We rolled the dice on strategy but we didn’t get the safety car we were expecting. That’s the way it goes, but overall it’s been really positive to have the consistent weekend we have.”
Wilkinson has just one weekend off before his British GT battles continue in the penultimate round of the 2020 season at Snetterton, 3-4 October.
Photo credit: Gary Parravani