Ollie Wilkinson is preparing to make his international GT3 24-hour race debut with Optimum Motorsport on 11-13 January 2018, as the 21-year-old Yorkshireman tackles the Hankook 24H Dubai and first round of the Creventic 24 Hour Series in the Audi R8 LMS.
Starting only his second season of competition, Wilkinson will take the step up to the A6-Pro class partnering his driver coach and experienced sportscar champion Bradley Ellis, a Dubai SP3 class winner in 2015 who also helped Optimum Motorsport to claim the same category spoils as team manager last year. Audi factory driver Christopher Haase (GER) completes the three-driver line-up in the #96 Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS.
A newcomer to racing last year, Wilkinson delivered an outstanding maiden season ranking third in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge title fight. Three pole positions, six podiums and five fastest laps, not to mention 17 out of 19 top-10 finishes counted among his impressive novice achievements. He then signed off 2017 with a second-place Pro-Am podium on International GT Open debut in Barcelona, his first time pairing with Ellis in the Audi R8.
Although holding firm to that invaluable experience, Ollie knows that another steep learning curve awaits him in Dubai, not least learning the 5.39km circuit whilst competing against vastly more experienced and professional drivers amid a grid of over 90 cars.
But Wilko’s ready for his biggest challenge yet. Taking less than two weeks off over the winter period, he’s undertaken an extensive fitness development programme and hours of simulator training in preparation for the first round of the 2018 Creventic 24 Hour Series powered by Hankook.
Ollie commented: “It feels incredible to be heading in to my first GT3 24-hour endurance race. I’m excited and nervous in equal measure, so a bit of a roller-coaster of emotions, but I can’t wait to get back in the car and put everything I’ve learned on the simulator to good use. Racing with Brad and Christopher, I couldn’t hope to be making by Dubai debut with a more supportive team and driver line-up. With only three of us in the car, we’re going to be on short rotation with not much time to rest. That’s going to be my biggest challenge, but I’m ready and raring to go.”
Wilkinson’s driver coach and teammate, Ellis added: “The 24 Hours of Dubai is a big challenge for any driver, so it’s remarkable that Ollie is making his debut in only his second year of racing, but he heads to Dubai with a GT3 podium in the Audi already under his belt. Since his last race in Barcelona, he’s worked relentlessly to not only match his pace with constantly improving racecraft, but to also take his mental focus and fitness to another level to become an impressive rounded driver package. I can’t wait to get back on track in Dubai and support Ollie at this milestone event, and I also look forward to racing alongside Christopher for the first time.”
Wilkinson will take to the Dubai Autodrome circuit during official practice on Thursday before tackling qualifying at 17:00 (local time). The 13th running of the Hankook 24H Dubai will commence at 14:00 on Friday, with live timing and streaming via www.24hseries.com. Live streaming is also available on the series’ YouTube channel and Motortrend on Demand, while live commentary throughout qualifying, night practice and the race will be presented by the Radio Show Limited team at www.radiolemans.com