Tom Oliphant narrowly missed out on a points finish during a positive first weekend in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), fighting on the fringes of the top ten during the opening rounds at Brands Hatch.
Oliphant’s debut in the highest profile championship in the UK would see him race in front of a bumper crowd at the Kent circuit in his Ciceley Motorsport Mercedes A-Class, with all three races televised live on ITV4.
Morning rainfall ensured tricky wet conditions for the 27-year-old’s first-ever BTCC race but Oliphant would adapt to the conditions strongly and get himself right into the thick of the midfield battles.
Fighting hard through a typically action-packed race, he would just slip out of the points-paying positions in the closing stages as he took the chequered flag in 16th position.
Oliphant followed up in race two by fighting through to a high of eighth before contact from a rival led to a broken suspension and an early retirement.
It meant the Leamington racer faced an uphill battle in race three as he took to the grid in 31st position.
The challenge increased as a small mechanical issue on the green flag lap meant he would have to enter the pits for a quick repair and therefore start the race from the pitlane. However, an almost immediate safety car period ensured he got on to the back of the pack.
From there, the Horizon Specialities and eJIGSAW-backed racer would produce another superb performance as he gained 11 positions, with only questionable defensive driving from those ahead stopping him making further progress.
Nevertheless, Oliphant was in positive spirits ahead of a visit to one of his favourite circuits, Donington Park, at the end of the month.
“I’ve had an absolute blast this weekend,” he said. “I think it’s the most fun I’ve had in a race car for a long time. Every lap of every race I was battling for position and I certainly got into the touring car spirit as I gained a lot of positions over the course of the three races.
“It was a steep learning curve this weekend, especially with my first race coming in the wet which I feel I did well in. We went for the safe option with tyres in changing conditions in race two and started really strongly, but sadly it wasn’t to be in the end.
“I’m a bit disappointed in the third race too as I felt like I had the pace to move further forwards, but it was still a strong result coming through from a pitlane start. I certainly understand the characters in the championship now, those who I can race fairly with and those I can’t.
“Overall, it’s been a great weekend both on and off track. The BTCC is a huge spectacle and you’re kept busy as a driver meeting the fans and entertaining hospitality guests and sponsors, but I loved every second and I can’t wait for Donington Park.”