MARK Wakefield made a dream start to a new season when he claimed a maiden victory in the MINI Challenge UK at his home circuit.

The Northwich driver was rewarded for a swift getaway in Monday's opening race at Oulton Park, squeezing inside pole-sitter - and Excelr8 Motorsport teammate - Max Bladon at Old Hall.

He stayed put, holding off the challenge of Brett Smith and last year's runner-up Charlie Butler-Henderson for the remaining laps.

"That was unbelievable," he said afterwards.

"I made a great start, which was the plan, even though it was still wet on my side of the track and I did get wheel spin.

"I could see Brett closing in on me as the race went on, and it wasn't until the final corner that I felt sure I'd go across the line ahead of him."

The 19-year-old completed a promising weekend's work when he finished third in the second sprint later the same day, although he was later relegated to fifth after receiving a 10-second penalty for a false start.

It leaves him fourth in the drivers' standings ahead of the second round at Rockingham.

Wakefield, who lives in Weaverham, picked a perfect moment on Saturday to put in his best qualifying performance since joining the series in 2014.

He made sure he started the first race from the grid’s front row after setting the second-fastest time, missing out on pole by the narrowest of margins, just 0.011s, from Bladon.

Theirs were the stand-out machines during an interrupted half-hour session which was halted twice by a red flag.

After the first restart, Bladon and Wakefield took it in turns to go quickest before another stoppage.

“We felt capable of getting on the front row but I’d have been happy with a place in the top 10,” said the latter, whose previous best qualifying result since stepping up to the series’ premier JCW class was eighth.

The 19-year-old had been prevented by a fuel issue from taking part in testing at the Little Budworth track on Friday.

However he was able to squeeze in some time behind the wheel during a track day 24 hours earlier.

Wakefield added: “Joining a team for the first time has made a huge difference.

“The car is set up differently, and I’m more confident as a result. I can keep my foot down for starters!"