Double Second Sets Wilkinson Career Best on International Debut

Ollie Wilkinson continued his superb debut racing season on international ground this weekend, with back-to-back second-place Protyre Motorsport Ginetta GT5 Challenge finishes at Zandvoort sealing his best results of his young career so far. 

Wilkinson opened his first weekend racing on international soil in style, leading a thrilling battle for pole position early on Saturday morning. A bold gamble to head onto a still wet circuit on slicks almost paid off when Ollie topped the timing screens with a flying lap of 1:59.086 as the chequered flag flew. But he was unlucky not to claim his fourth pole position of the year when Lewis Brown and Ollie Chadwick were able to leapfrog onto the front row in the final seconds of the session.

A stellar third-place start ensured Ollie moved up to second as the field dived into Tarzan for the first time on Saturday afternoon. Although temporarily demoted to fourth while running on the outside two turns later, Wilkinson soon moved back up to third before the end of the opening tour.

Over the next six laps, Ollie looked to chase down Chadwick and Brown who were embroiled in a race-long battle for the lead. It was just three laps from the end of the first 15-minute race of the weekend that everything fell into place for third-placed Ollie. As a live recovery dealt with a car that had car spun at turn one, the leaders slowed rather than pass the recovery vehicle, bunching up the field.

A mistake and spin from Brown followed, giving Ollie all the invitation he needed to climb up to second. However, his last couple of laps were far from easy. The slow move past the rescue vehicle had allowed Shane Stoney to close in, but Ollie’s excellent last lap defence ensured he would take the runner-up podium position, securing his best finish of his debut season.

Wilkinson served up more of the same for race two early on Sunday morning, with another strong start ensuring the Optimum Motorsport driver slotted into second to immediately pressure leader Chadwick. By lap three, the top four began to edge clear of the 23-car field, Ollie allowing the experienced Chadwick barely 0.4 seconds of breathing space while Max Bird and Stoney swapped places behind.

In a mature drive beyond his rookie status, Wilkinson challenged at every opportunity around the 4.326km circuit, a move into Tarzan on lap six almost paying off, but a short safety car caution in the final three minutes halted his progress. As the safety car lights went out, Wilkinson was ready for a sprint to the line, but with the chequered flag already flying it was a formation finish to secure his second runner-up slot of the weekend.

Wilkinson had high hopes of carrying his formidable form into the third and final race, but rear contact and another finish under full course yellow meant that was impossible. Lining up eighth on the reverse grid, Ollie gained a good start to move up to seventh by the end of lap one and ran as high as sixth before rear contact at turn 10 tipped him into a spin, a swift recovery ensuring a rejoin in 10th.

Immediately on a recovery mission, Wilko was soon back up to ninth when another full course yellow with four minutes remaining looked to play right into his hands to close-up the field. But with a lot debris to clear on-track, the field once again finished in formation under safety car conditions.

Regardless, Ollie’s outstanding international debut propels him up the championship table to lie third in the title standings with just two events remaining – a remarkable achievement in his first year of racing.

“I’m absolutely buzzing to lie third in the championship after the best weekend of the year so far, I love this circuit!” enthused Ollie. “After a tough time at Silverstone last month, everything came together for me here. I had the pace and the racecraft to deliver calculated drives to bag the best results of my rookie year. There was nothing I could do to change the race three result but, that aside, I’m over the moon and feel that a visit to the top step of the podium isn’t far away. I can’t wait to be back in action, supporting the BTCC at Knockhill next month.”

Photo credit: Jakob Ebrey

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