A sensational drive through the order from fourteenth to sixth was the highlight for Tom Oliphant of a hugely impressive first Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup outing of the season at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona this past weekend (13/14 May).
In only his second ever appearance in what is widely regarded as one of the toughest one-make championships in world motorsport, an eye-catching performance saw Oliphant secure a pair of top ten finishes in his first ever races at the iconic Spanish circuit.
Not only was the Porsche Carrera Cup GB regular stepping up to take on the best one-make Porsche drivers in the world around an unfamiliar circuit, he was also doing so in the brand new second generation Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, in which he had only completed one previous test outing.
Running with the same Lechner Racing team with whom he raced in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East over the winter, Oliphant would immediately settle into a competitive pace in his 485hp 911 during Friday’s sole free practice session.
Despite some red flag stoppages limiting his track time, the Leamington Spa racer was able to post the twelfth fastest time overall amongst the 31 car field; a performance he would replicate perfectly in qualifying the next day as he posted a best effort of 1m 50.177s.
Oliphant would make steady progress during the opening race of the weekend on Saturday evening; which he began by pulling off a fantastic overtaking move on his former Middle East adversary Ryan Cullen on the opening lap to take eleventh position.
Following a short safety car period, the 26 year old would immediately dispatch Philip Morin into turn one at the restart, before a spell of immense pressure on Daniele Di Amato paid off on lap ten as he moved into tenth place, which he maintained for the remainder of the race.
With one top ten finish under his belt, Oliphant was determined to secure another as he prepared to start fourteenth for race two, which would take place in front of a huge crowd as the final warm-up race before the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday morning.
Oliphant would go on to wow the packed grandstands with an overtaking masterclass in his Philips automotive lighting, Mulgari Automotive and Horizon Specialities-backed machine, with a brilliant opening lap seeing him move up three positions to eleventh.
Truly a man on a mission, Oliphant would pick off three more drivers in the next few laps with slick overtaking moves to slot into the top eight, before showcasing his impressive pace as he closed a gap to the next group of cars ahead.
After benefitting from a rival receiving a drive-through penalty, Oliphant produced another fantastic move on Di Amato in the closing stages to secure a sensational sixth place finish – capping off a memorable race for his team with five Lechner Racing cars in the top six.
Oliphant will now be eager to take the momentum from the weekend’s results into the next rounds of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, which take place this weekend (20/21 May) at Oulton Park in Cheshire; a circuit just a stone’s throw from his family home in Tarporley.
Tom Oliphant: “I’m over the moon with the results from Barcelona. Going into the meeting I didn’t know what to expect, but over the course of the weekend we kept improving and grabbed two fantastic race results.
“With the level of competition being arguably the most challenging in any one-make series in the world, I was delighted to not only come through the field, but to also be right on the race pace of the top five drivers at the front.
“I would like to thank Lechner Racing for a great car and atmosphere, my family and sponsors for supporting me this far, and to everyone who watched and supported me over the weekend. My attention now turns to Oulton Park and converting some strong performances into podium finishes.”
Oliphant’s return to the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup grid with Lechner Racing will come in support of the Formula One British Grand Prix at Silverstone over the weekend of July 15/16.
Image from Dan Bathie/Porsche.