Tough conditions at Oulton Park this weekend (October 25-26), saw Salih Yoluc’s skill shine through and his training and effort pay off in the form of a pole-position and an appearance on the top step on the podium for Optimum Motorsport.While a perfect weekend was snatched away from his grasp when he was taken out of the second race through circumstances out of his control, both Yoluc and the team left the final round of the 2014 GT Cup championship positive, after a series of successful performances behind them.
Temperamental weather throughout the day created greasy track conditions, making it tricky for even the most seasoned of drivers. Yoluc’s first lap time put him P13 overall and P2 in his class, however, even with the minimal track time, Yoluc’s second lap saw him climb into P7 overall, and P1 within his class with a time of 1:54.791.
Yoluc further strengthened his hold on the class pole when he improved on his time with a 1:54.473 lap, extending the gap to second. While the other, faster, classes began setting their quick laps, Yoluc continued to improve, putting himself P7 overall once more, and ‘best of the rest’, with a time of 1:53.886. Still P1 in his class, his closest rival was David Bearman’s Ginetta G55 with a time of 1:55.960, almost two seconds slower.
With four minutes of the session remaining, a track warning was delivered to Yoluc’s closest rival, Bearman, for exceeding track limits, but his efforts were in vain as Yoluc took class pole-position with a time of 1:53.886, 0.8 seconds faster than second-placed Bearman and over two seconds quicker that fellow G55 runner Ben Tompkins.
QUALIFYING RESULT: YOLUC - P1 [GTA]RACE 1
Race one was declared wet prior to the start, however this would be no problem for the confident Yoluc. Starting on row seven, Yoluc made light work of his more experienced rivals and moved up to eighth overall, putting himself behind Shamus Jennings’s far more powerful GTC class Ferrari 458, while holding off the presence of David Walley’s GTB class Porsche Cup Car.As the race progressed, Turkish ace Yoluc, maintained a healthy two-second class lead over Bearman until a safety car period caused by a GTO class Porsche reduced the deficit and bunched the field up. With eighteen minutes left on the clock, the race restarted and Yoluc set about building his lead once again.This proved challenging, as Yoluc’s Ginetta G55 was unable to hold off the faster GTO class cars of Phil Burgen, and Marcus Clutton in the straights, allowing them to overtake, leaving him tenth overall, but still in the class lead.It was a game of cat and mouse though as while Burgan and Clutton were faster on the straights, they held Yoluc up in the corners, allowing both Walley and more importantly Bearman’s GTA class rival to close in. The Optimum Motorsport driver kept his nerve and began to create a gap, gaining almost a second a lap on Bearman.Eventually, Walley’s more-potent Porsche overtook the Optimum Ginetta, but Yolic held onto tenth overall as a costly spin from the #44 TVR Sagaris of Tim Hood ahead promoted the GTA class leader back up the overall order.Yoluc’s focus now turned to his closest rival #87 Bearman, who benefitted from the battling ahead and took the opportunity to close the gap to just 0.8 seconds. Unphased, Yoluc maintained the gap for two laps before Dan Stringfellow’s GTC class Lamborghini overtook Bearman, putting himself in between the two class rivals, giving Yoluc some breathing space.With seven minutes remaining Stringfellow got the better of Yoluc and relegated him to eleventh, but a lap later the Optimum G55 was ahead again when the Lamborghini racer made an error.Showing consistency and pace in equal measure, Yoluc pushed on and extended the gap to Bearman, and he claimed ninth overall at the finish, overcoming the wayward GTO Ferrari of Chris Dockerill in the final laps.It was an important result for Yoluc, and the overall top-ten finish with yet another GTA class victory, once again demonstrated the rapid rise of the Optimum ace and his burgeoning ability behind the wheel of the Ginetta G55.
RACE 1 RESULT: YOLUC - P1[GTA]
RACE 2A start line incident in race two turned into a big first corner accident and tarnished the weekend for Yoluc, with the Turkish driver a blameless victim in a chaotic accident involving four other cars. While he walked away unscathed, the same could not be said for Yoluc’s car and the final GT Cup weekend of 2014 came to a premature end for the team.RACE 2 RESULT: YOLUC - DNF [GTA]
Optimum and Yoluc will now focus on a series of one-off race outings in other series over the next month before finalising their 2015 plans.Salih Yoluc:“It was a really fantastic weekend to begin with; I led a comfortable pole position with a 0.8 second difference to P2, and starting on pole of course helped me win the race. The start of the race was really good for me as I was P5, or P6 overall in the first 5-6 laps, and had a much more serious gap with P2 in my class. When the safety car came in, the gap closed to both my class and the other cars. After that, some faster class cars overtook me on the straights and made me slow down while in the corners, which allowed P2 in my class to get closer to me. Overall it was a good race and I’m happy I didn’t make any mistakes under pressure for 6-7 laps, and ended with a win. Race 2 was a shame, but I was caught up in someone else’s incident and there was literally nothing I could do.As for next year, we have started testing GT3’s recently, with my coach Euan Hankey, so we will definitely be doing some GT3 racing alongside the GT4. We’ll definitely be in British GT, but it’s not clear if it is going to be GT4 or GT3; depending on that decision we’ll also be either in European GT4 series, or in International GT Open. So, two competitions next year, and a huge step forward! I’ll try to make my best effort to be ready for these until the beginning of next season.”Shaun Goff – Team Principal:“This weekend, it was fantastic that Salih was able to show how much he has progressed. He had some really tough conditions to deal with for qualifying and even so, he was able to qualify it on pole by a significant margin. Race 1 had seen him lead from start to finish but it wasn't easy as pressure from David Bearman to the finish line made it an anxious last few laps! It was fantastic for Salih to get his first win on his own; a real confidence booster as he prepares for next year. It's great to see the hard work paying off for Salih and the team.”