ON KNOCKHILL DEBUTRichardson Racing driver Ollie Pidgley delivered, by far, his best results of the MSA Formula season at Knockhill Circuit in Scotland over the weekend, 22nd/23rd August, with the first year single-seater racer achieving his maiden top 10 finish in the second of the event’s three contests.
Marking the 17-year-old’s first ever visit north of the border to the undulating and very technical Fife track, Downton-based Ollie produced a series of highly competitive performances despite a less than smooth start to the event in officially timed testing on Friday.
Along with the top 10 result in round 20 on Sunday morning, the MSA Academy racer claimed a then season-best of 13th position in round 19 on Saturday and wrapped-up his Scottish adventure with a top 12 placing in round 21 – which was televised live on ITV4.
“It’s great to have been in the top 10 for the first time and three more finishes in the points is what we were aiming for”, said Ollie, “Being a 50 second lap, Knockhill might look easy but the undulation is really challenging and it’s quite a difficult circuit to get to grips with. We needed maximum track time, so weren’t helped by a clutch problem in testing, but overall it was a strong weekend.”
Originally planning to forego the Knockhill event, Ollie did ultimately decide to embark on the seven and a half hour drive from Wiltshire to the Fife track for the weekend’s action and the net result was his most competitive outing yet in MSA Formula.
Beginning round 19 from 18th on the grid, the single-seater rookie’s maiden race at the Scottish circuit became ever more challenging prior to the start of the contest when rain began to fall, making the track surface very unpredictable on slick tyres.
Although difficult initially, Ollie was able to make steady progress with his pace and by lap eight he had moved into 16th as a result of contact between race leading pair Daniel Ticktum and Ricky Collard at the hairpin.
As the track dried more and more, and his confidence increased, Ollie moved into the top 15 and then managed to pass Jack Butel for 14th place on lap 14. Then, just prior to the finish on lap 23, he took 13th position following problems for team-mate Louise Richardson on the penultimate tour.
For round 20 on Sunday morning, in fully dry conditions, Ollie started on the seventh row and after climbing two places on lap one he was edged back by title front-runner Ricky Collard prior to the Safety Car being deployed. When racing resumed, he maintained 12th place but on lap 10 had to take evasive action to avoid the stricken car of Lando Norris in the middle of the track.
Dropping to 15th position as a result, Ollie moved back into 14th a few laps later and was then able to profit from dramas for others to break into the top 10. Notably, his best lap of the race was within just 0.4 seconds of the winner’s quickest time.
Beginning round 21 from the back row of the grid in 18th position, Ollie gained two places prior to the start after issues for a couple of rivals on the formation lap and by lap three he was up into 14th position and running strongly.
Taking another place a lap later, the Wiltshire teenager climbed into the top 12 as a result of a drive-through penalty for Ticktum and although edged back to 14th during the second half of the contest he worked his way back into the top 12 before the conclusion.
“Qualifying wasn’t quite as good as we’d hoped as I didn’t have a steady base lap in my head to reference due to our problems in testing”, reflected Ollie, “Then, race one was a big challenge with the rain, it was spitting slightly in the assembly area and then it rained really heavily when we went out to the grid. I’d never driven a lap in the car in the wet, definitely not the wet on slicks!
“There was a lot of carnage in race two, I got a decent start and I moved up into about 11th place but when Lando [Norris] got spun out and he was in the middle of the road, I lost two places avoiding him but we still finished in 10th in the end which was great. Race three was another good result and showed we definitely made some positive progress this weekend.”
Rockingham in Northamptonshire will host rounds 22, 23 and 24 of the MSA Formula season two weeks from now on 5th/6th September.