OC'S HAT-TRICK

Tom Onslow-Cole made it a hat-trick of consecutive International GT Open podium weekends on Saturday, as he and team-mate Valentin Pierburg (DE) took third place at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza with the SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes AMG GT3.

The Rockstar Energy Drink Athlete, who has taken a podium in all but one of his GT Open weekends this season, knew that the circuit was not very well suited to the nimble but heavily-restricted Mercedes, but this didn’t deter him – he set the fourth fastest lap time in qualifying one and set the pace for the competitors in the AMG-machines.

“The Mercedes is so quick in the corners that the championship limits its top speed in order to manage the balance of performance and this means that tracks like Monza, with lots of straights, don’t work well for us,” commented OC. “But there are other tracks in the series that suit it better so it all levels out across the seven rounds - all you can do it get the most out of what you have in front of you.”

After the red flag-marred qualifying session was over, OC set about in preparing for race one. In the SPS Automotive Performance state-of-the-art truck, he went through some on-board video and data with Valentin as they discussed their strategy for the 70-minute sprint.

“It’s important for me to get us to a podium position but not take any massive risks,” the Casio Edifice-wearing star said. “Vally is close to getting a top-three championship finish this season so we don’t want to drop any points through making mistakes. Vally is great at defending so, I knew if I could just hand the car over to him in a high points-scoring position, he could bring it home there."

As planned, OC got a great start to cleverly work past three cars but, unfortunately, he was squeezed wide at the first chicane and had to take the escape road to protect the car. He emerged one place down but then set about picking the cars off one-by-one. First passing the Lamborghini at the second chicane to take third in class and then the McLaren between the Lesmos, he handed over to Valentin in P2 and they finished in third place with another six points collected.

“Vally did a great job,” continued OC, who is sponsored by Milltek Sport. “He got passed by McLaren works driver Côme Ledogar… I think I’ll let him have that one!”

On Sunday morning, Valentin qualified and in the afternoon started the race. He did a solid job and handed over to OC in P9 in class. OC had a battle on his hands to climb to a podium position in his 35-minute stint but he pushed hard and began to make up positions. First he picked-off the race one-winning McLaren and then three identical Mercedes AMGs in a row, to cross the line in P5 - just 0.3 seconds behind the Ferrari 488 and with another three points in the bag towards Valentin’s championship bid.

“We’ve had a really good weekend on a track that we knew would be tricky with our BoP,” concluded OC. “It’s Vally’s second season of racing and his first full championship so to be battling for a top-three position is fantastic. We still have lots of work to do but we’ve come along way this year so far. I’m looking forward to the final round at Barcelona… it’s one of my favourite tracks and I think the Mercedes will be strong.”

The final round of International GT Open takes places on 28/29 October at Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona.