Ollie Wilkinson kicked off his inaugural season as a McLaren Factory Driver this weekend, but the first Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS round at Monza dished up a tricky start for the JOTA team.
The all-McLaren Factory Driver line-up of Wilkinson, Rob Bell and Ben Barnicoat had been hopeful of strong top-10 finish to start the season. Although a gearbox sensor issue at the very start of the three-hour endurance race put paid to their chances, stellar teamwork ensured Wilkinson returned to the track to run as one of the fastest of the 42-strong field.
The trio had made solid progress throughout the first event of the year, building pace and climbing the timing screens with each outing before qualifying 17th fastest amid an incredibly close session where 0.97 seconds covered the top 24 cars.
Despite the gearbox sensor issue arising as Ben Barnicoat made his way from the start into turn one, outstandingly quick repairs from the JOTA team ensured the McLaren 720S GT3 was back on track 30 minutes later.
Although out of the main race action with 13 laps lost, the team took the opportunity to gain invaluable race mileage with Wilkinson at the wheel. With the #38 back on full song, the 25 year-old rapidly mastered the tricky conditions to consistently feature as one of the fastest of the field before retiring the car.
Wilkinson and the JOTA outfit will be looking to further prove their GT World Challenge Europe pace and potential at Magny-Cours, for the first Sprint Cup outing on 7-9 May.
Image: Alex Galli / JOTA