Points for Oliphant but an opportunity missed in opener

Tom Oliphant in action at Oulton Park. Picture: Jakob Ebrey Photography
Tom Oliphant in action at Oulton Park. Picture: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Tom Oliphant made a return to the points positions in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC)courtesy of a battling display at Oulton Park in Cheshire.

Born and raised only ten minutes down the road in Tarporley, the annual visit to Oulton Park always has added significance for Oliphant and this year was no exception as he competed there for the first time in the BTCC.

Oliphant enjoyed a positive start to the meeting as he produced promising lap times during Saturday’s two free practice sessions and a brilliant late charge in the session saw him post a best effort of 1m 26.296s to finish tenth fastest overall.

In the sweltering sunshine on Sunday, the 27-year-old would lose a couple of places during a busy start to the opening race. However, he went on to run strongly in 12th for the majority of the race before the opportunity of an overtake presented itself on the final lap.

Heading into the high-speed Druids corner, Oliphant stormed around the outside of the Honda of Brett Smith and looked to have gained the place but contact to the rear of his car sent him sideways off the circuit in dramatic fashion.

An expert reaction from Oliphant ensured he controlled the slide and got his Horizon Specialities and eJIGSAW-supported Mercedes back on track in one piece, which allowed him to go on and take the finish in 20th position.

Oliphant bounced back from that incident in strong fashion in the second race as he picked his way through a couple of chaotic incidents ahead of him to emerge from the opening lap in 17th, before gaining another position in each of the next couple of laps.

The forward progress would continue over the remainder of the race as the former Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup champion worked his way through to 13th place at the chequered flag, his third points finish of the season so far.

Lining up in the same position for the final race of the day with the favourable option soft compound Dunlop tyres on his Mercedes, the Leamington driver was confident he had the speed and racecraft to break into the top ten and end his weekend in style.

Unfortunately, his chances would end in immediate and brutal fashion as mere metres from the start-line he was unceremoniously hit in the rear of his Mercedes, which pitched him into another car and sent him spinning into the pitwall.

The retirement left Oliphant to reflect on an up and down couple of days.

“It’s been a mixed weekend that started with a really positive day on Saturday, where we had great pace in the car from the off,” he said.

“It was fantastic to qualify in the top ten once again and to have a better qualifying record than my team-mate at this stage is a welcome surprise.

“In hindsight I should have settled for 12th in the opening race but I’m a racing driver and I went for the opportunity that was there.

“Sadly I got unnecessarily tapped into a spin and fell back to 20th, which put us on the back foot for the next two races.”