DOWNTON'S MINI Challenge driver Ollie Pidgley charged to a best result of eighth position at Oulton Park Island Circuit on Saturday, during the second of two races at the Cheshire track.

This moved the 20-year-old to within just a handful of points of the coveted championship top 10.

Making the second visit of the year to Oulton, the first having taken place over Easter on the slightly longer International Circuit configuration, where Pidgley made his championship bow, the fifth race meeting of 2018 formed part of the annual MINI Festival.

While qualifying and round nine did not go entirely to plan for the Excelr8 Motorsport driver, his MINI having problems staying settled over the bumps, in round 10 later in the afternoon Pidgley produced an excellent performance to slice his way through into the top eight from 14th on the grid.

Pidgley said: “I was slightly out of position in qualifying because our runs were unlucky with red flags that stopped the session”

“In race one I was up inside the top 10 after a few laps, but the car was reacting oddly over the bumps and was becoming unsettled. It reacted to a bump into Turn One and I had a big drift onto the grass, I don’t know how I held it – a bit more luck than judgment really!

“In race two I had another good start and was about 10th after the first couple of laps, before climbing into eighth where I finished. With a few more laps that could have been higher I think, the car was much better and more settled. The team did a fantastic job over the weekend as usual and my number one mechanic, Matt Long, was faultless – top job!”

In qualifying at Oulton’s 2.23-mile Island Circuit on Saturday morning Pidgley had to settle for the 13th fastest time, a best lap of 1m32.904 seconds (86.25mph) placing him just over 0.6 seconds shy of the top six.

While impacted adversely by red flags in the session, he also had his quickest time disallowed due to a track limits infringement.

At the start of round nine, the Wiltshire racer made a good launch from the line and put together a very strong opening lap to scythe his way through into the top 10.

Determined to make continued progress, Pidgley moved into ninth on corrected times at the end of lap two as a result of a penalty for a rival and he stayed there until the fourth tour.

Frustratingly, though, after sliding wide onto the grass at Old Hall as a result of his MINI’s difficulties coping with the bumps, he dropped to 13th position.

Working hard to close back up to the top 12, he eventually ended the race in 14th place.

With the race two starting order determined by the results from the opening encounter, Pidgley lined-up on the seventh row of the grid for round 10 and, as in race one, he put together a strong first lap to gain three places.

Running just outside the top 10 into lap two, the Old English Properties, MSP Capital and Partridge MINI supported driver gained another place the next time around before spending several laps bottled up behind the MINI of George Sutton.

Making the breakthrough on lap eight to take ninth, Pidgley quickly established a good gap and when Jordan Collard retired on lap nine he inherited eighth place. Lapping competitively to the finish on lap 13, Pidgley was little more than three seconds outside the top six. Notably too, his pace was just half a second shy of race winner and championship leader Ant Whorton-Eales’ best.

There are now just three weeks to wait until the sixth race meeting of the MINI Challenge season at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit over the weekend of August 11 and 12.

The championship will join the support package for the British round of the hugely popular DTM touring car category – easily the biggest event of 2018 for the MINI Challenge competitors.