ptimum Motorsport battle hard for little reward in the Gulf 12 Hours Bahrain
The first race of the 2021 season proved to be a tough one for Optimum Motorsport, leading the Gulf 12 Hours Bahrain at the mid-race point, only for mechanical gremlins to cost the #77 crew valuable time and a chance to take the GT4 victory.
The British-based team fielded two McLarens in the event, the GT4 raced by Lars Dahmann, Charlie Hollings, Jan Klingelnberg and Warren Hughes. Over in the Inception Racing GT3 camp, the Pro-Am line-up saw Brendan Iribe, Ollie Millroy, Joe Osborne, and Nick Moss team up for the first time in the #72 entry.
The driver pairings in the GT4 set the early pace in qualifying but had to settle for second on the grid in the class. It was soon clear that the #90 Mercedes would be the closest rival, and over the first six hours of racing and the first phase of the Gulf 12 Hours there was little to choose in a closely fought battle.
Jan and Lars completed much of the first four hours of the race, running strongly in second position, whilst keeping the car in contentions should the #90 ahead slip up. A drive-through penalty for the Mercedes team, due to a pit lane exit infringement, put them within striking distance and allowed Warren to make the pass on track to take the lead.
Following Warren’s great move to the front of the field, Charlie was tasked with retaining the lead in the final hour before the unique mid-race break. The British racer took the chequered flag seven seconds clear of Jean-luc D'auria and the team looked forward to a race for the win in the second phase of the race.
Lars took the restart, but it was immediately clear that the 570 GT4 had an issue. The German racer duly pitted and it took nine laps for the hard-working crew to remedy the ABS sensor issues and return the car to competition. The fate of the GT4 class win was therefore down to reliability with Lars pushing on with the aim of keeping the pressure on his class-leading rival.
His German teammate Jan took over, setting the GT4 pace right out of the box, but an ABS problem soon intervened, meaning that P3 and the race finish was now the target. Warren took over for the final stint, recording laps at the top of the GT4 timesheets, but it wasn’t to be with third position after 279 laps the scant reward.
For the Inception Racing GT3 team, it was a short and also a somewhat frustrating first race of the season. Qualifying didn’t run as smoothly as hoped with a loss of boost on the #72 720S but with 12 hours of racing ahead, the drivers were content with sixth position in the Pro-Am class.
Brendan was charged with the opening stint and the American racer made a fantastic start to gain four positions on the opening lap. He defended his position through the opening segment of the race, opting to allow the Pro racers through and focus on the Pro-Am battle.
He ran fifth before handing over to Nick for the second run of the day. The two Bronze racers maintained the position between them, but during Brendan’s second stint, he was forced to pit and ultimately retire the car with braking issues.
With the first podium of the season in the bag, Optimum now prepare for next week’s 24-Hour challenge in Dubai, but ultimately look forward to returning to the tenth edition of the Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi this December.