Tom Oliphant has brought the first half of his maiden Porsche Carrera Cup GB campaign to a close on the cusp of a podium breakthrough following a hugely promising showing in the latest rounds of the championship at Croft this past weekend (18/19 June).
After producing his season’s best qualifying performance on Saturday, Oliphant was right in the thick of the action at the front of the field on his way to a pair of fifth place finishes in Sunday’s two races which have cemented his top five championship standing.
Croft was a happy hunting ground for Oliphant during his title-winning Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup campaign last year, having taken two wins and a third place in North Yorkshire, and his positive record at the circuit looked set to continue following a positive day of running on Friday.
Firmly establishing himself in the top four on the timesheets in both free practice sessions, Oliphant was able to convert that pace into a pair of blistering lap times in Saturday’s qualifying session to put himself fourth and third on the grid for Sunday’s races.
A strong launch off the line in race one didn’t come to fruition when Oliphant was forced to back out the throttle to avoid making contact with a slow starter in front, with the loss of momentum meaning he would go on to emerge from the first lap in sixth position.
Determined to regain the lost ground, Oliphant quickly shrugged off the attentions of former British GT champion Bradley Ellis behind before going on the attack, with a slick move into the hairpin on lap six securing him fifth at the expense of Tom Sharp.
As the race progressed, Oliphant was visibly faster than the man in front Charlie Eastwood, but was unable to forge a clear overtaking opportunity without risking his strong position, so maintained fifth place to the flag to get more crucial championship points on the board.
With his great pace in the closing stages of race one, Oliphant was confident of breaking his podium duck in the second race and he got it off to a perfect start as he rose to second position heading through Clervaux for the first time.
Oliphant immediately got his head down and started pulling away from the pack behind in his Redline Racing Porsche, but as increasing rainfall made track conditions difficult, an unfortunate slide across the grass at Sunny In dropped him back to fifth position.
With the gap to the top four proving too large to breach, Oliphant would go on to maintain his top five standing through to the finish, with his raw pace clear for all to see once again as he set the second fastest lap of the race.
Whilst ultimately not the results he wanted from the weekend, the two fifth place finishes mean Oliphant impressively remains as one of only two drivers in the field to finish every race in the top six so far this season, whilst they have also edged him closer to the top four in the standings.
Tom Oliphant: “Naturally I’m disappointed not to come away from the weekend with a podium finish, but I’m really happy with the step forwards we’ve made with the pace of the car and we’re really knocking firmly on the door of the top three now.
“We were unfortunate to lose out in the chaos at the start of the opening race, but we got the opportunity to be at the front in race two. I got second off the line and was pulling clear of Tom Sharp behind when the rain began to increase.
“I went into Sunny In the same as I had done every lap and I can’t work out why on that occasion the rear of the car didn’t hold. Maybe I should have backed off and settled for second, but I’m a racing driver and I’m never happy with second!
“Overall, it’s been another positive weekend. Getting our best qualifying performance so far shows we’ve now got the pace to be challenging right at the front in both qualifying and the races, and I’m looking forward to getting the season back underway at Snetterton next month.”
The Porsche Carrera Cup GB season now heads into a six week summer break before the next rounds at Snetterton in Norfolk on 30/31 July.
Source. Simon Paice Media/Photo. James Lipman/Porsche