Bradley Ellis (GBR) and Ade Barwick (GBR), who formed part of Optimum Motorsport’s Dubai 24 Hour GT4 class-winning entry, are back with the Wakefield-based team and joined by experienced GT racer Flick Haigh for their latest challenge, the Mugello 12 Hour race in Italy (13-14 March 2015).
Ellis, 27, a former British GT champion, was instrumental in the success of Optimum at the twice round the clock Middle East event in January, and re-unites with Barwick, 47, in the Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 for the Mugello event, the second round of the 2015 24HSeries.
The Italian round of the 2015 24H Series should offer Ellis so familiarity, as part of the Croydon-born star’s junior career saw him have a factory kart drive with the Italian ITLOOX Racing team, before his ‘car’ debut in Formula Renault Italia aged just 16.
“Italy has been good to me, I’ve had three wins and three podiums in other series,” reflects Ellis. “I love the country and can’t wait to return. While I’ve not raced at Mugello before, I’ve tested there with Ade a fair bit. After winning Dubai, we felt it would be good to come and do this one with Optimum. It was such a great result in Dubai; we dominated the class, so we’re hoping for more of the same again at Mugello.
“It’s yet more good experience for Ade ahead of British GT; we have some areas to work on together and Creventic put on a good event, so hopefully it should be good fun to do.”
Former Caterham champion, Haigh will re-join the Optimum ranks having previously competed with the team at the 2013 Dubai 24 Hour event, and she shone in January this year when her Speedworks prepared Aston Martin finished third in the SP3-GT4 class. The return to Optimum has come following an opportunity arose to join Ellis and Barwick in the Italian race.
“I know Shaun runs a very good team and having driven the Optimum Ginetta, albeit not the same one, I know they produce a very good race car and it looked like a good opportunity. Based on what I saw in Dubai I think we’ll have the pace to run at the front and Brad showed the cars capabilities in qualifying at Dubai; he clearly knows the car pretty well.
“For me it’s about familiarity in team and car; I wanted to race at Mugello as it’s a circuit I’ve heard a lot about and have never driven at. Eliminating as many unknowns was key,” commented Haigh.
The 30-year-old is committed to building her GT credentials after impressive performances in a BMW Z4 GT3 with Triple Eight Racing’s Driver Development programme, TEDD, but the prospect of driving the Ginetta G55 GT4 is one that has the Marlow-based racer excited.
“I had a fantastic time in Dubai in the Aston, but I’m excited to race the Ginetta GT4. I’ve had some experience in a few different Ginettas and have always go on well with them. The Aston is quite like a road car, but I believe the Ginetta is more an out-and-out racer and you can be a bit more aggressive with it. I loved the Cup version of the G55 and I think if we can stay out of trouble we should be good,” Haigh concludes.
Optimum Motorsport owner and Managing Director, Shaun Goff believes he has assembled the best possible line-up for the team’s first visit to Mugello.
“Brad and Ade were both impressive in different ways in Dubai. They’ve worked together for a while now and it shows; their styles and abilities complement each other very effectively. We’re also chuffed to have Flick back with us too. She’s a quality driver and has benefited from her experience with Triple Eight and her outings in the VdeV Endurance Series last year. I don’t think there is a weak link in this team and we’re keen to make it two wins out of two next weekend.”
Goff, a stalwart of the GT endurance racing scene, is also going to use the event to evaluate a ‘full’ 2015 campaign in the 24H Series, with Optimum’s current commitment limited to that of a race-by-race basis.
“There is interest in competing in other rounds of the series, but it is very dependent on the circuit. The Dubai win brought a lot of interest in what we’re doing from Europe as well as the UK; we’ve got to weigh it up and make a decision on it,” explained Goff.
Optimum will take part in the optional private test on Thursday (12th March) and then join up with all their rivals for the extremely busy Friday. Proceedings begin with free practice (08:15-09:45 GMT), before qualifying (10:00-10:45 GMT) and the race start (12:30 GMT). The race is split into two parts and first concludes at 16:30 GMT on Friday, before re-starting at 08:30 GMT on Saturday morning for eight hours of wheel-wheel endurance racing, before the finish at 16:30 GMT on Saturday afternoon.