Go Motorsport Management driver Ollie Pidgley had an early conclusion to his part-season in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship on Sunday, 30th September, when serious power steering failure led to his car being withdrawn from the final race of the year at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit.
Hoping to end his four-weekend tenure in the BTCC on a real high at the Kent venue, 21-year-old Pidgley instead had a somewhat chastening experience with car issues impacting his involvement in the event from the outset.
After overcoming early electrical problems, which cost the Downton racer significant practice time on Saturday, 29th September, he headed into qualifying and the races on the back foot but the MSP Capital and Old English Properties supported driver applied himself well to the challenge.
Finishing in 27th place in round 28 on Sunday morning, the Trade Price Cars with Team Brisky Racing driver was then forced to retire midway through round 29 when the power steering on his VW locked at intermittent points – which ultimately led to the car being withdrawn ahead of round 30.
“This weekend has obviously been disappointing, but my experience over the last four events has been fantastic – it’s been great learning about the BTCC and just being part of this amazing championship”, said Pidgley, “It’s all been very relaxed, no pressure at all, and it’s been really good working closely with the engineers to make steps forward.
“Tony [Gilham – team principal] has been really helpful and his sponsors have been a big part of enabling us to do the last four events. Hopefully we can be back next year if we can find the budget we need for a full season in touring cars, there’s nowhere I’d rather be so we’ll be working as hard as ever during the off-season to try and raise as much backing as we can.”
Pidgley’s weekend didn’t get off to the best of starts in opening practice on Saturday morning when the electrics in his Volkswagen CC kept cutting out. Only completing six laps as a result, he went into second practice on the back foot compared to the rest of the field but found significant time.
Into qualifying later in the day, Pidgley had to settle for 30th on the grid for race one with just a few tenths of a second covering the five cars immediately ahead. Although a lot of work then lay ahead in Sunday’s first encounter, the Wiltshire driver relished the challenge.
At the beginning of round 28, Pidgley managed to avoid being caught-up in a multi-car incident out of Druids although he did have to take to the grass at Graham Hill Bend which meant he went on to end the first lap in 27th position.
Moving up into 26th place on lap five when Sam Smelt ran off the circuit at Paddock Hill Bend, the Trade Price Cars with Team Brisky Racing driver closed on Josh Caygill’s MG6 ahead but on lap 27 the recovering Mike Bushell was able to slip past Pidgley and Smelt too managed to get back ahead. On the final lap, though, an excursion for Ethan Hammerton elevated Pidgley into 27th place.
Determined to make up more ground in round 29, the BTCC rookie’s hopes were dealt a blow over the first couple laps when bundled down to 30th position but he still pressed on and began to move up the order. Into 26th place by lap six, contact then led to a puncture on the No.43 Volkswagen so a pit visit duly followed.
After returning to the race a lap down, though, the power steering then became a major concern as it worryingly locked into a number of corners, including the daunting Paddock Hill Bend, Graham Hill Bend and Surtees.
Wisely, Pidgley pitted on lap 10 and due to the extent of the problem he retired from the race. After a full check from the team post-race, it was then decided on the grounds of safety to withdraw the VW ahead of the finale.
“We did have higher hopes for race two but after the contact which damaged the tyre, and the pit stop, I then started to have some problems with the steering”, explained Pidgley, “It locked as I was going down Paddock Hill Bend a few laps later, then it unlocked, but then locked again at a few more corners. In the end I had no steering whatsoever, so at least I was able to get to the pits safely.
“If the whole steering rack had gone ‘bang’ into one of the corners it could’ve been a much worse outcome. The guys had a proper look over the car after race two but with the issue too complex, it was decided to withdraw ahead of the final race and that was definitely the right decision.”