Chalk and cheese for Optimum Motorsport at Barcelona GT Open

Monday, September 23, 2019

The penultimate round of the International GT Open Series from the Circuit de Catalunya was something of a contrasting affair for all the runners but particularly the #96 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage of Ollie Wilkinson and Darren Turner as both weather and technical issues presented the team with both sides of the racing spectrum of success at the weekend.

Going down to be a race that the team will surely never talk about again, things were looking pretty good for the Pro car entry from the Wakefield team going into race one as AMR Factory driver Turner claimed a P3 start for Saturdays race in the then dry track conditions.

Starting from a wet grid (but then not raining) Turner soon found himself caught up in an incident at turn one where a car diagonally in front suddenly cut across his path leaving the #96 car with nowhere to go and tapping that Lamborghini into a spin. Although undamaged from the contact Turner was able to continue although he had already lost two places in the process but later he would be adjudged to be at fault by Race Control.

With rain now falling heavily and dense spray hindering visibility it wasn't much of a surprise to see the Safety Car called into action just before the hour to help marshals with the recovery of a stricken car stuck in the gravel. At the restart Turner used all his years of experience to literally drive around the outside of the BMW in from to claim P4 overall in the race as it seemed a recovery drive was on its way.

With the Optimum Team Manager now having been summoned to Race Control for the earlier incident it seemed that the team then 'lost track' of what was going on as the pit lane opened with just forty minutes remaining. Following the top two cars around again and again, either Turner forgot or the team forgot to tell him to pit before the driver change window had actually closed by the time the #96 pitted next time around. That would cost them a penalty.

Well, that would have had it not been for a problematic left front wheel change seen from pit lane as Wilkinson climbed aboard. With the mechanic having taken two attempts at the wheel Wilkinson was dispatched and was immediately unhappy with the balance of the car as he weaved slowly around the first few corners before running wide and stopping turn 9.

The team would later confirm a broken stub axle at the front left corner had allowed that wheel to part company from the car. Race over.

In Race two on Sunday, both the conditions and execution of the race were happily near polar opposites to Race one.

Wilkinson this time took the earlier Qualifying session for the team but suffered somewhat with understeer with the team having swapped the car back to a dry set up from that of the day before. That meant that the 22 year old would start the car from P16 on the grid.

With three consecutive non scoring races from both Saturday's race and preceding races at Silverstone already under their belts from last month, it was clear that Wilkinson was playing the percentage start - keeping the car along with those around him but clearly out of possible harms way as he waited for the grid to space out.

Two opportunist moves on the opening lap saw the #96 car soon establish a rhythm into the race that would hold their position at P13 by the time he pitted at the halfway mark. Taking advantage of their shorter minimum pit stop time to those around them, it didn't take Turner too long to get up to speed and indeed up to P7 overall and P5 in class by the time the pit window had closed.

Another two overtakes just before a late Safety Car intervention for another car in the gravel nearly paid off for the #96 team as that just left a five minute dash to the flag.

In the end, that didn't pay off for the AMR Vantage as the Teo Martin McLaren 720s ahead was just that little too fast for him to find a route around. They would ultimately finish P5 overall and in Class at the end of this hour long race. Happily they would have something positive to celebrate on the way home!

Although not what anyone within the team expected, the mistakes of Saturday were clearly learned from as they executed the best race they could on the Sunday with the package that they had available.

The final race of the 2019 International GT Open Series will be raced at Monza in just under three weeks time.

Photo credits - GT Open / Optimum

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes