After his recent outstanding drive from 15th to finish fourth in the Silverstone 500, rising sportscar driver Ollie Wilkinson and team-mate Bradley Ellis are intent on returning to the outright British GT Championship podium at Donington Park next weekend, 22-23 June.
The Optimum Motorsport duo’s epic efforts at the last outing not only cemented four out of a possible five Silver Cup wins so far, extending their class title lead, but also promoted Ollie and Brad to third in the fight for outright championship honours. A remarkable feat in Wilkinson’s third season of his young racing career.
Although an impressive result, 23-year-old Wilkinson feels there’s unfinished business to attend to, as the Optimum-run Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT3 was knocked from fifth to seventh in the final hour of the three-hour Silverstone race, putting them out of overall podium contention.
Marking the halfway point in the British GT calendar, the two-hour endurance race around the 2.487-mile Grand Prix circuit means there’s an additional 50% points on offer at Donington Park. A repeat of Wilkinson and Ellis’ top-three triumph from the season-opening Oulton Park round could make all the difference to their title endeavours in what is Wilkinson’s maiden British GT campaign.
Donington Park is a circuit of particular note for Wilkinson. It’s where the Yorkshireman made his novice debut ‘taster’ race in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge season finale in late 2016. He last raced there in September 2017, signing off his first season of competition third in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge title fight with a sixth season podium, while adding to his tally of three pole positions and five fastest laps.
The fourth round British GT battles will mark Wilkinson’s first encounter at the Leicestershire circuit aboard the all-new Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT3. Practice on Saturday will offer the Optimum crew the first opportunity to get to grips with the car on new turf, before honing set-up ahead of the crucial qualifying session that afternoon.
Wilkinson says: “Donington Park means a lot to me. It’s the place I first experienced the British GT Championship and saw what a race event was like. It’s my adopted home track. To be heading back three years on, racing the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 is a dream come true. It’s easy to forget this is only my third season of racing because it’s now my life, but coming back to Donington really puts that in perspective.
“Silverstone was far from a disappointment. To prove we can fight back through the field and get on-terms with the new car in a three-hour race has boosted our confidence and championship position. But we race to win and to be on the podium at a place like Donington would mean so much. The circuit should suit the car and we should be in strong contention. That said, we will be keeping the long-game in mind and not doing anything drastic that might ruin our championship chances.”
Team-mate Ellis adds: “We had an awesome fight back from the rear of the GT3 field to place fourth at Silverstone, which could prove pivotal to our title fight. It’s vital we continue our momentum; everything is starting to come together but we need our results to mirror that progression. Doinington Park is a great track, good to drive but hard to race. Traffic will be tricky and managing passing the GT4 field, particularly through the first and second sectors, will be key. We’re making solid progress and just need to keep doing what we’re doing – and a bit of luck – to push the envelope and close the gap to the top.”
The British GT action at Donington Park starts with two one-hour practice sessions on Saturday morning, followed by qualifying from 15:45. The two-hour race is scheduled to start at 13:00 on Sunday, streamed live via the championship’s official website www.britishgt.com, YouTube and social media channels.
Photo credit: Gary Parravani / Xynamic