Excelr8 Motorsport racer Ollie Pidgley was satisfied with his maiden race outing in the MINI Challenge at a rain-lashed Oulton Park on Easter Monday, after racing to an 11th place finish on his category debut. Despite difficulties with power steering throughout the event, the 20-year-old series newcomer was able to hit his target top 10 in qualifying on Saturday and just missed out on the same in the opening MINI encounter.

Two races were scheduled for the championship-opening meeting at the Cheshire venue’s International Circuit configuration, but with worsening rain taking hold during Monday afternoon a decision was made to abandon the remainder of the event.

To be fair I think we did well”, said Pidgley, “On Friday in testing we had a few mechanical issues, so we only got eight laps all day and six of those were in the wet. In qualifying I was P5 or P6 for the majority of the session, which was great, but we had power steering issues all weekend and it packed up near the end of qualifying – so instead of P4 or P5 I ended up 10th fastest. 

Even though it was a bit disappointing from the laps we’d done earlier, we came into the weekend looking for the top 10 so we achieved our target. In race one the rain was really heavy and although I dropped a couple of places I did climb back into 11th in the end, so I’m pretty happy with that.

Pidgley, who is backed by Old English Properties, MSP Capital and MINI dealership Partridge MINI, carried strong hopes into qualifying and certainly delivered with a series of times keeping him in the upper order for the bulk of the session.

Even though the power steering failure late-on prevented a likely slot on the first two or three rows of the grid, former Renault UK Clio Cup racer Pidgley was happy with 10th fastest for round one from the huge 30-car grid.

Continued rain on Easter Monday led to round one beginning behind the Safety Car and Pidgley held onto his top 10 position for the first three laps. Shuffled back to 11th on the fourth tour, he quickly moved back into 10th spot and then, on lap six, he was edged back to 13th place but fought back into the top 12 on the final lap.Post-race, he was elevated into 11th following a penalty for a rival.

On the last lap I was doing the same times as the leaders which was great, it just took me a bit longer to get down to that sort of pace”, added Pidgley, “I’m definitely happy with the job I did and the great job the team did too, they resolved the steering issues in the end so it’s just a shame race two didn’t happen. I’m really looking forward to Rockingham now, one of my favourite tracks.