Ollie Pidgley endured a frustrating visit to Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk over the weekend, 8th/9th August, with contact in two of the event’s three races spoiling an otherwise positive race meeting for the Richardson Racing driver.
Although his unblemished points-scoring record was halted in round 16 on Saturday when his Ford EcoBoost-powered car was smashed into from behind at the hairpin on lap seven, the 17-year-old was able to conclude the event with a hard-earned top 15 finish in round 18 on Sunday afternoon.
“Being crashed into from behind twice in the first two races this weekend was pretty frustrating, especially as our pace has been improving”, said the Wiltshire driver, “It’s not the start to the second half of the season we were looking for, we know we’re getting quicker though and the car is working better – it’s just unfortunate we couldn’t take away the sort of results we deserved.”
Ending pre-event testing on Friday, 7th August, within a second of the top 10, Ollie picked-up his pace very impressively during qualifying on Saturday morning to secure 15th position on the grid for round 16 with a lap time of 1m52.424 seconds (95.06mph) – placing the first year ‘slicks and wings’ racer within just 0.6 seconds of eighth spot.
Maintaining his position on lap one after a clean getaway, the MSA Academy racer ran competitively within just 0.5 seconds of Toby Sowery after the first couple of laps and on the fourth tour he moved up into 14th place as a result of Daniel Baybutt slipping down the order.
Baybutt hit back on lap six, pushing Ollie into 15th again, but then the youngster profited from an issue for Sandy Mitchell to once more take 14th position. Into the seventh tour, though, after seeing off a challenge by Rafael Martins over the line, Ollie’s car was then assaulted by the JTR machine of James Pull at Montreal Hairpin – resulting in a bitterly disappointing retirement.
Pull was penalised by race officials after being declared at fault for the incident, but along with the non-finish and the resulting damage – which required a great effort by the Richardson Racing team to ready Ollie’s car for Sunday’s action – the teenager also had to begin round 17 from the back row.
Facing a tough challenge from 21st on the grid during Sunday morning’s contest, Ollie made a great start once again to move up into the top 20 and then gained another place on lap two when Sandy Mitchell crashed out.
On lap three, though, at the hairpin once more, Ollie was yet again the victim of contact and he had to make a pit visit for a new front wing. On rejoining the race a lap down, Ollie held 19th position and remained there to the finish on lap 10.
“Pace-wise through testing we were OK and then in qualifying it went well, we were P15 and pretty close to the top 10”, he explained, “In race one I was up into 14th, I had [Rafael] Martins behind me and James Pull behind him. Pull went to the inside of Martins at the hairpin, locked-up and drove clean into me – it broke the rear wing, sidepod, engine cover and the headrest was dented in!
“Because of that, we started on the last row for race two but I made a really good start again. I was in about 19th and overtook Ameya [Vaidyanathan] at the hairpin on lap two but on the next lap it was the same sort of incident as race one – he hit my rear tyre and knocked me round. I got back to the pits for a new front wing, but the tracking was miles out and we were a lap down.”
Beginning the final race, round 18, from 12th position, Ollie slipped back a place on the opening tour and remained there until lap three when he was passed by championship leader Ricky Collard – the move opening the door for two other cars to nip through as well.
Climbing back into the top 15 at the end of the fourth tour, when team-mate Louise Richardson had a spin entering Murrays, Ollie then moved into 14th position a lap later and started to reel-in the group ahead. All over the back of the battling Pull and Baybutt, he then slipped back to 15th on lap nine when Richardson moved past after making the most of a good slipstream into Riches.
Ollie will forego the championship's visit to Knockhill in Scotland a fortnight from now, instead returning to action for the eighth race meeting of the MSA Formula campaign on 5th/6th September at Rockingham.