Tom Oliphant has continued his hugely impressive record of finishing on the podium in each of the 2016/17 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East meetings so far with a superb fightback drive to third position in the latest outing at the Dubai Autodrome (26/27 January).
Oliphant’s first race action of the year saw him return to Dubai following a great performance in the championship’s last meeting there prior to the festive break in December, when supreme lap times and some outstanding overtaking moves secured him a pair of top four finishes.
The 26 year old headed back to the United Arab Emirates determined to add more podium finishes to his two in the opening four races, and he was immediately on the leading pace during Thursday practice in his Lechner Racing-run Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
After making big steps forward throughout practice, Oliphant was left disappointed to qualify only seventh on the grid for the opening race, but he immediately made amends on the first lap with a sensational overtaking move to pass no less than three cars around the outside of the turn ten hairpin.
Battling with older tyres than many of his adversaries around him, Oliphant would slip back to fifth as the race progressed, but some impressive, consistent lap times kept him in contact with the leading group as they headed towards the conclusion of the race.
Unfortunately for Oliphant, his hard work wouldn’t be rewarded with the top five finish he deserved though as heading into the first corner on the final lap, an ambitious, misjudged overtaking effort from Charlie Frijns led to heavy contact between the two cars.
Oliphant would be forced to retire on the spot with a broken wheel and suspension, but after having completed over 75% of the race distance, he would still receive some crucial championship points ahead of a now pivotal second day of action on Saturday.
It would prove to be a similar story for the 2015 Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup champion come qualifying, with a frustrating session seeing him place his Porsche sixth on the grid, but once again he would go on to showcase his brilliant raw pace and racecraft come the race.
Another quick start would see Oliphant move into the top five on the opening lap and following a busy initial spell, he built a gap to his pursuers and began to set his sights on the top four, with a number of personal best lap times getting him right on their tail.
Dispatching Dylan Pereira for fourth on lap six, Oliphant would then establish himself as one of the quickest drivers on circuit as he fought it out in the middle of a superb four-way battle for the final podium position.
After plenty of side-by-side racing between the pack, Oliphant seized his chance with a slick move around the outside of Al Faisal Al Zubair to take third place, which he held to the finish for a richly deserved third podium finish in the championship so far.
The weekend’s results mean Oliphant remains third in the points standings, just eleven points shy of second place, as he prepares for a first ever visit to the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi next week (10/11 February) for Rounds Seven and Eight of the season.
Tom Oliphant: “It’s always a tough first weekend of the year, getting back into the swing of things after the break. I was really pleased with the car over the weekend, we had some strong pace at times which put us right up the sharp end of the grid.
“Sadly when it mattered the times didn’t materialise for us and that’s something I’m truly determined to put right next time out. Overall I’m happy with my performance though, we claimed another trophy and I have improved from a technical perspective once again. I can’t wait to get back out in Abu Dhabi under the lights.”
Source. Simon Paice Media/Photo. Porsche Middle East