Tom Oliphant showed massive podium potential during Rounds Three and Four of the 2017 Porsche Carrera Cup GB at Donington Park this past weekend (15/16 April), though saw misfortune befall him in his quest for a first top three finish of the campaign.
The meeting would mark the first time Oliphant had competed at Donington Park in Carrera Cup GB machinery, but having won at the circuit in the Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup in both 2014 and 2015, he headed to Leicestershire confident of a strong weekend.
The Leamington Spa racer got the meeting off to a promising start during official Thursday practice as he produced top five pace across both sessions; a performance he would replicate in Saturday’s qualifying session as he secured fourth on the grid for both of the weekend’s encounters.
It was a case of what might have been for the 26 year old though, as he was on course for provisional pole position during the business end of the session with outright fastest times in the first two sectors, before he was blocked by a backmarker at the final chicane.
With the theoretical best lap times showing he would have ended up with a front row start, Oliphant knew he had the pace to move forwards as he lined up on the grid for the opening race later that day, with a strong start seeing him maintain position during the early stages.
Hot on the heels of the third placed driver, Oliphant went for a move on lap nine in his Philips automotive lighting Porsche, but some forceful defending lost him momentum and left him powerless to slip back to fifth position, before losing another position soon after.
It would go from bad to worse a couple of laps later though, as after gaining a position back with a slick move, an attempted fightback by the driver would only result in contact to the rear of Oliphant’s car heading through Redgate corner, spinning him around.
Quickly recovering to the track in ninth position, Oliphant went on to maintain that position to the chequered flag, before being promoted two positions post-race after a couple of drivers ahead were excluded from the results due to technical infringements.
The Mulgari Automotive and Horizon Specialities backed driver was eager to make amends for his race one misfortune in the second encounter on Sunday, and he certainly started it in spectacular fashion in front of the live ITV4 television cameras.
After gaining a position heading through Redgate corner for the first time, Oliphant traded second position with Lewis Plato at the end of the second lap, before definitively taking the place with a brilliant move into Coppice on lap four.
Oliphant would go on to maintain second for almost half the race, however as his tyre grip worsened he lost the position on the run to Redgate on lap sixteen, though he would immediately attempt to get it back coming out the Old Hairpin.
Switching to the right of the track heading under the Starkeys Bridge, some more forceful defensive driving ahead would see him shoved onto the grass, with the subsequent loss of speed and dirty tyres leaving him unable to stop himself slipping back to sixth place.
Matching the lap times of the drivers in front over the remainder of the race, Oliphant would go on to take the finish in sixth position for some more crucial championship points, which have helped move him into a clear third in the standings ahead of the visit to his home circuit Oulton Park on May 20/21.
Tom Oliphant: “I think we made big steps forward this weekend in terms of pace and racing, the car was exactly where we needed it to be, but we seemed to get the bad breaks all weekend; always being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“We should have been on the front row of the grid, but got held up by the same driver on both of my fastest laps, and then we raced well in the first one, but got tagged around which wasn’t my fault and cost me what would have been third place after the exclusions.
“Race two started really well getting up to second place and it was looking peachy, but I think I pushed too hard too early on the tyres, the rears went a bit too early and that allowed them to keep on my tail and ultimately get past.
“It’s been a frustrating weekend therefore, but we know the pace is there and we’ll come back stronger at Oulton Park, challenging for the front row in qualifying and the podium finishes in the races.”
Image from Dan Bathie/Porsche.