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Pirelli Paddock Pass: Joe Osborne

This week’s Pirelli Paddock Pass with McLaren factory driver Joe Osborne…

Photo: McLaren

McLaren’s new 720S GT3 wasn’t present in the GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS last year but will finally take on Europe’s flagship GT3 series this year with Optimum Motorsport leading the charge.

One of the drivers selected for Optimum’s car is McLaren factory driver Joe Osborne, who talks about his expectations for the upcoming season and his role with the British manufacturer in this week’s Pirelli Paddock Pass.

The former British GT Championship regular will share Optimum’s McLaren with Rob Bell and Ollie Wilkinson for the five GTWC Europe Endurance Cup races.

Do you have any expectations or targets ahead of the season?

“I think it’s still hard to get realistic targets, purely because we don’t know the competition fully yet. It would be a little bit cocky to say what we’re going to do before we know who we’re racing.

“With my McLaren hat on, we’ve got a chance with the car in its second year to show what it can do in probably the most competitive GT3 championship in the world.

“All the resources that McLaren and Optimum are putting in will hopefully lead to some decent results.

“With my Optimum hat on, they’ve done well to get a program together like this, and we’ve got a bit of a duty to repay their faith in the car, and me, to give them the results they deserve.”

You’ve not raced in GTWC Europe for a few years; will it be difficult to adjust?

“Not for the last few years but before then I did [GTWC Europe, formerly Blancpain GT Series] in a variety of cars, from the old Aston Martin V12 Vantage to the BMW Z4 GT3, the Lamborghini Huracan GT3, but this will be the first time I’ve raced there with McLaren.

“I think we’ve got all our eyes open to what we need to be doing. I’m hugely excited, but we know it’s going to be so, so tough.

“We’re already focusing on marginal gains stuff and anything we can do as a team to optimize our performance. Everything’s going to be crucial in that regard.

“I think we’re being cautiously optimistic, but we’re also putting literally every element of resources we have available into it, to get the best out of it.

“That’s what’s so good about GTWC, because when you do get a good result, you know it’s because of so many various factors that have led to that being a possibility.”

The McLaren is somewhat of an unknown quantity in GTWC Europe, will it surprise people?

“We’ve spoken about it at length but we don’t quite know where we sit in the food chain. We all know how good the BoP has become and how close it is, but maybe we’re an unknown identity in some regards.

“We will prepare the car and give it to the FIA for the Paul Ricard annual BoP test, like we did last year, and see where we go from there. We will work super hard with everyone at the FIA and SRO to make sure we get the right BoP.

“There are a few manufacturers that seem from the outside to maybe try and pull the wool over the eyes of the powers that be but I think that’s now becoming more and more futile.

With the technology and how clever the guys are, it might get you somewhere in one race but in the long-term it’s a bit of a foolish decision.”

How are you finding your factory driver status with McLaren?

“This is my third year being a factory driver. When McLaren Automotive took McLaren GT back in-house, their first signings were Rob Bell, Ben Barnicoat and myself.

“It was a great honor to be employed by McLaren like that, and it’s a company I’ve worked with a lot over the last six or seven years now.

“I love McLaren and I really feel like I identify with their products. They’re good on the track but they’re also super good on the road in terms of performance, so I absolutely love working with the guys down at Woking.”

How did you find doing TV commentary for British GT last year?

“It was interesting, to say the least! I wasn’t racing in British GT last year for the first time in a decade so it came about because Tom Hornsby (British GT press officer) thought it would be a good idea to get me behind the mic and see how it goes.

“I’d like to think I’m a relatively confident person in day-to-day life but in my first go at it in real anger at Snetterton, I was nervous.

“It wasn’t something I thought I’d ever do, or particularly enjoy, but I ended up loving it. I still maintain the stress of it is higher than racing a car because it wasn’t as natural to me.

“I was able to add a string to my bow, CV-wise, that definitely wasn’t there before, and who knows? When the gloves get hung up, it might be another little avenue.”

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