• Excelr8 Motorsport’s Ollie Pidgley happy with top six in Rds3&4
• First year MINI racer growing in confidence in all-action series
• Pidgley eyes maiden podium after strong showing at Rockingham
Rapid MINI Challenge front-runner Ollie Pidgley departed Rockingham International Super Sportscar Circuit on Sunday, 29th April, with a season-best double top six from rounds three and four of the championship – and is now eyeing his maiden category silverware sooner rather than later.
The 20-year-old from Downton in Wiltshire was competitive throughout the second event of his rookie season in the heavily subscribed series and having qualified an excellent fifth in the wet on Saturday, 28th April, he went on to secure well deserved sixth place results in the dry on Sunday.
“It’s been a weekend of mixed feelings”, said Pidgley, “To get two top six finishes was a huge step forward from Oulton Park, so I can’t complain about that at all, and qualifying inside the top five for the first time in the MINI Challenge was great. I do believe we could have achieved more, there was a damper issue and a few small mistakes, but with a good haul of points we have a lot to build on.”
Qualifying late on Saturday afternoon took place on a wet track, rain having fallen persistently throughout the day at Rockingham, and Pidgley produced a fantastic performance to secure fifth on the grid for race one of the weekend. Delivering a best lap of 1m42.464 seconds (68.16mph), the first year MINI racer was just 0.025 seconds shy of the second row of the grid.
Making a good start to the first race on Sunday morning in the dry, Pidgley avoided a tangle ahead and climbed into third place. Racing fell under the Safety Car ahead of lap two, due to a stranded car at Tarzan, and so when the action resumed on lap four the Wiltshire racer still held third.
Soaking up pressure from Calum King, he maintained his podium placing until lap five when bundled back to fifth place behind both King and former British GT Champion James Gornall. Pidgley, though, stayed in touch with the duo ahead.
Moving into the top four at the expense of Gornall on lap nine, he was edged back to fifth on the penultimate lap where he stayed to the chequered flag. Post-race, it became clear damper failure had been resulting in a loss of time each lap, compromising the true competitiveness of the No.3 MINI by instigating rapidly increased tyre wear.
Beginning race two from third on the grid, the Old English Properties, MSP Capital and Partridge MINI-backed driver got off the line well but did slip to fourth behind a fast-starting Rob Smith. The action then quickly fell under Safety Car conditions due to an incident further back in the pack at Turn One of the Oval.
Ultimately leading to a red flag stoppage, the action then resumed with a time limit of 10 minutes for the remaining action. Determined to mount a bid for his maiden MINI podium in only his third race in the category, Pidgley was shuffled back to fifth initially and then edged to sixth on lap five.
Holding the top six spot to the conclusion on lap seven, Pidgley was somewhat disappointed not to have been able to secure his first silverware in the championship but still satisfied with a strong overall weekend and big step forward from the opening event.
“I definitely feel we could have achieved more but it’s been a good weekend”, added the Wiltshire driver, “I am a bit disappointed there were a few small mistakes which meant people got past me who shouldn’t have really, plus we had a damper issue halfway through the first race so I just had to try and keep everything together to the flag to bring it home in sixth.
“In both races my starts were excellent, I got off the line really well, and in the second race we obviously had two standing starts due to the red flag but both were really strong. Finishing with another top six in race two wasn’t bad at all and I’m also glad to hear everyone involved in the accident which caused the red flag is OK. I’m really looking forward to Snetterton now!”
Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk will host the third event of the MINI Challenge season over the weekend 26th/27th May.