Wilkinson Takes Third Season Podium at Thruxton
Ollie Wilkinson sealed his third Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge podium finish of his debut season at Thruxton this weekend, as the 20-year-old Yorkshireman embraced his first event at the UK’s fastest race circuit in support of the British Touring Car Championship.
The Leeds racer, who sealed a brace of third-place finishes with a sterling drive from seventh on the grid on Saturday, went on to deliver another BTCC crowd-thrilling performance on Sunday. Although a late race spin while dicing at close quarters amid a five-car battle for fourth pushed him down the order, Wilko mounted a characteristic charge to wrap-up his weekend with a 10th place points-scoring finish.
Wilkinson went into Saturday morning qualifying with little experience of the challenging Thruxton track, his only knowledge gained at the official BTCC test day last month. Regardless, the 20-year-old steadily climbed the order to secure seventh fastest with a best time of 1:24.811, just 0.691 off pole, despite struggling with rear-end grip.
A superb fourth row start for the first race of the weekend in cooler conditions late on Saturday afternoon ensured Wilkinson made up places from the moment the lights went out. Sitting sixth heading into lap two, he picked off Simon Traves, Nick Zapolski and Lewis Brown in a single lap of the 2.356-mile Hampshire circuit.
From there, the Optimum Motorsport driver chipped away at the 0.8 second gap to second-placed Geri Nicosia, setting personal best race times in the process. By lap nine, Wilkinson was on par with the leading duo and working on any opportunity to take advantage of the close fight for first, right up until the final chicane. Despite mounting pressure from Zalpolski in fourth, Wilkinson safely bagged his third podium of his maiden motorsport season.
Lining up third on the grid for round eight on Sunday afternoon, another solid start put Wilkinson in top contention despite sustaining unsighted rear-quarter contact through Cobb. Undeterred, Ollie continued to trade places with Nicosia for third, with the latter managing to nip through ahead of the lap two safety car period.
Forced to focus on defending from the restart on lap four as the leading trio broke free, Wilkinson was embroiled in a nail-biting five-car fight for fourth which saw the order change every lap. Setting a blistering pace to secure the second fastest time on lap eight, Wilkinson mounted a sling-shot past Jonny Hadfield for fifth heading out of Village on lap nine. Despite a successful counter attack, Hadfield got out of shape through Church, in turn forcing Wilkinson to lift in avoidance and spin off onto the in-field.
Although time had run out for Wilko to pull off a full-scale recovery charge, he still managed to climb three places in two laps to salvage points for 10th.
A beaming Wilkinson commented: “I’ve loved every lap racing at Thruxton for the first time and I’ve gained a lot of technical experience. It was a shame to spin during the tight fight for fourth but better that than damage the car and we still earned championship points. It was fantastic, clean racing at close quarters and I really enjoyed it. Taking a third podium finish yesterday capped what has been an unbelievable start to my first season.”
After three events and eight rounds over the last four weeks, Wilkinson takes a well-earned break before the Ginetta GT5 Challenge battle resumes at Silverstone, on 10th-11th June.
Full race results can be viewed at www.tsl-timing.com
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