Double Podium Honours On Rockingham Debut
Making his debut at the Northamptonshire circuit, the Leeds racer got his weekend underway with his second pole position of the year (and career) in qualifying on Saturday morning. Wilkinson topped the field from lap five, his time of 1:30.786 clearing second-placed Shane Stoney by 0.032 seconds amid an incredibly close session, where one second covered the top seven cars.
Lining up for race one on Saturday evening, Wilkinson turned a disappointing front row start and spin into a blistering 10-place recovery drive, charging from 19th to ninth and setting the fastest lap in the process. Determined to make each of the six remaining minutes of racing count following an early safety car, the Optimum Motorsport driver began by clawing back four places at the restart.
Once again demonstrating his pole-winning form, he set the fastest lap (1:31.298) and slashed the 2.8-second deficit to 14th on lap six before taking Angus Fender the following tour. Continuing his charge with two laps to go, a superb four-car move down the inside at Deene secured 10th while a last-lap pass around the outside of Morgan Quinn through Turn 1 sealed a deserved ninth-place finish.
Quick off the line for round five on Sunday morning, Wilkinson climbed from ninth to third in just three laps of the 1.94-mile International Super Sportscar circuit. Claiming four places on the opening lap, he continued his mission to take Matt Palmer for fourth before completing his podium charge with a move past Simon Traves into Deene on lap three. Proceeding to pull out a comfortable margin, Ollie remained unchallenged on route to earning the first silverware of his short career.
With a top-eight reverse grid for the third race of the weekend, Ollie lined up sixth for round six on Sunday afternoon. Despite dropping two places at the start, a calm and calculated drive saw the rookie work his way back up to sixth by lap four, amid a gaggle of cars fighting for second.
Passing Max Bird for fifth, Wilkinson posted two consecutive fastest laps before taking both Ryan Hadfield and Traves under braking into Deene for third on lap six. With the leading trio now evenly spread out, Ollie built up a four-second buffer to Katie Milner in fourth to secure his second podium of the weekend.
Rounding out an intense schedule on Sunday evening was the cancelled third round brought forward from Oulton Park two weeks ago. Regaining his fourth-place starting slot by lap three, a mistake and spin on lap four dropped Wilkinson way down the order. Re-joining in 19th position with eight minutes remaining, the Yorkshireman mounted one last charge to move up the field at a rate of two places each lap to take another solid points-scoring finish in 10th.
“I’m over the moon with my debut performance in what has been a very busy weekend at Rockingham,” said Wilkinson. “It’s amazing to get two third-place podiums, something I didn’t expect to achieve in my first season of racing in such a highly-competitive championship.
“I know I’ve got a lot to learn this year but I’ve proved I’ve got the pace and I’m developing my racecraft with every lap. I now need to concentrate on my race preparation and start performance, which will improve with experience. From here we head to Thruxton to support the British Touring Car Championship, where I hope to put in another strong performance at the UK’s fastest race circuit.”
Full results can be viewed at www.tsl-timing.com
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