It has been just a handful of days since Olli Caldwell was climbing the mountains of the Mount Panorama Circuit in the R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3. It is one of the sport’s most famous spectacles and in his debut at the Bathurst 12 Hour, Olli drove years beyond his experience as he proved himself as race winning material setting times that had former winners and podium finishers looking over their shoulders. Although the weekend for Olli and his teammates, Luca Ghiotto and Marvin Kirchhofer, would end prematurely and in dramatic circumstances, he could leave with his head held high and has almost guaranteed himself an invite back for years to come.
Every year the best of the best in single seater and GT racing head down under to tackle one of the most challenging races in Motorsport. Just 200km from Sydney even in February the scorching conditions and nature of the circuit make it an incredibly difficult race and finishing it comes as a successful weekend for most.
Sitting at 6.2km in length once through turn one, fittingly referred to as ‘Hell corner’, you are greeted by arguably the most difficult section on any race circuit in the World. Turns three to eighteen include no run offs with a concrete wall greeting you if you are to make one small mistake. If that wasn’t enough already it also includes 174 metres in elevation change and the odd visit from a kangaroo.
Once the entry list was released many would have hovered over the number 62 car before looking any further. A Gulf 12 Hours Champion and single seater racer quickly on the rise, Olli was teamed up with FIA F2 driver, Luca Ghiotto and Blancpain driver Marvin Kirchhofer. Someone who also has experience racing in GP3 and GP2.
Given the nature of the event once the media duties had been completed on Thursday evening, practice would begin first thing on Friday with four sessions it total. For Olli and his teammates that would be reduced to two after some issues in the morning with the team out for practice three and four.
Getting up to speed in practice would see the team finish 27th before going to finish an impressive 22nd in the last session on Saturday morning. Struggling with Balance of Performance (BoP) in practice against the other manufacturers was hard to give the drivers a fair comparison, but for Olli lapping faster than the likes of Bathurst veteran, Rick Kelly and FIA F2 driver Ghiotto was something he could be very pleased with!
As practice concluded on Saturday heading into qualifying Olli and the team felt confident given the strides forward they had made in just three practice sessions. That confidence was confirmed in the first qualifying session as they finished an impressive 6th place which put them in a great position to make the top ten pole position shootout going into the second session.
Given no winner of the event has won the race from outside of the top four rows, this was crucial for them to challenge for victory and follow in the footsteps of the likes of Formula E driver Robin Frijns, who won the race back in 2018.
However, sadly this would be where their weekend would come to an end. As Marvin pushed the car as hard as he could to get into the pole position shootout, a small error of judgement coming through ‘Frog Hollow’ saw him touch the barriers which broke the suspension and from there, he was a passenger as the car was turned over before eventually coming to a stop at ‘Sulman Park’.
The entire paddock could only watch on as the stricken Aston Martin sat on the circuit almost in pieces, before Marvin thankfully emerged seemingly okay. It was labelled a ‘terrifying incident’ by all who saw it both at the circuit and online and it was no surprise that the team took the decision to retire the car for the weekend. Although an unfortunate scenario the main thing was that Marvin was okay.
It left Olli to stay and support his teammates in the #76 car who would go on to finish a respectable 16th place.
Although Olli did not get the chance to compete in the race itself he did himself, and the team, very proud in his efforts throughout practice and qualifying. Being one of the fastest drivers in the team over the weekend was something he could be very proud of and the experience gained is something that will help hugely in his efforts in the FIA Formula 3 Championship with Trident Racing this season.
Olli Caldwell: “Bathurst was an amazing experience! Working with a team such as R-Motorsport was awesome. Even if the full event didn’t end how we wanted it too I learned invaluable experience and can’t wait to hopefully compete in the race again. I’d like to say a huge thanks to the whole team for their efforts and support over the weekend.”
The Bathurst 12 Hour is just the start of what is set to be an incredibly exciting year for Olli as he prepares to tour with the Formula One Championship racing live on Sky Sports F1 at the likes of Bahrain, Zandvoort, Spa, Monza and of course his home race at Silverstone.
Olli has always been a dynamic driver and someone who can adapt and learn at an impressive speed. It is something he has had to do throughout his career and that was proved in bucket loads on one of Motorsports biggest stages.