Tom Oliphant showed tremendous pace and racecraft on his way to a superb second podium finish of the season so far at Knockhill this past weekend (12/13 August), the standout result from one of his best meetings to date in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB.
A two-time winner at the circuit in the past during his Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup days, Oliphant’s positive record with the undulating Scottish circuit continued from the off during pre-event testing on Tuesday as he immediately found himself right on the front-running pace.
After finishing second quickest on a dry circuit that day, Oliphant would go on to finish third quickest in wet conditions during Friday practice, leaving him confident of challenging for the podium across the weekend no matter what the unpredictable Scottish weather had in store.
As it turned out, a dry track greeted the grid for qualifying on Saturday and what followed was one of the closest sessions in championship history, with a blistering effort of 50.045s putting Oliphant fourth fastest despite being just nine hundredths of a second slower than pole.
Remarkably it would be even closer on second quickest times for race two, with the Philips automotive lighting supported racer finishing up just 0.025 seconds off the summit and yet still only third on the grid for the race that would be shown live on ITV4 the following day.
Oliphant lined up for the rolling start to Sunday’s opening race with his sights focused solely on the podium positions, however those hopes were dashed at the first corner when he received contact to the rear, pushing him off circuit.
A swift recovery saw the 26 year old return to the circuit in seventh position. After settling back into a rhythm over the next few laps, Oliphant moved into sixth position on lap six, before a fantastic switchback move out of the final hairpin got him into fifth at mid-distance.
Some fast, consistent lap times then allowed him to close onto the tail of fourth place heading into the closing laps, however despite his best efforts to find a way past, some robust defending that included forcing him onto the grass meant he had to settle for fifth at the finish.
There was almost immediate heartbreak at the start of race two as well as a clutch problem nearly left Oliphant stranded on the grid, but the Leamington Spa racer managed to coax it off the line at the loss of only one position heading into an early safety car period.
At the restart, some instant battling behind him allowed Oliphant to break away from the pack and focus solely on keeping tabs with the top three drivers ahead, with some impressive pace seeing him stick with them as the race progressed towards its conclusion.
That would prove pivotal for the Horizon Specialities backed driver as on the penultimate lap, a dramatic incident between the top two ahead opened the door for Oliphant to move into third position and slot onto the rear bumper of the car ahead.
Oliphant got one opportunity to attempt an overtake as he stormed to the outside at the hairpin on the last lap, however a forceful defensive move sent him off circuit and left him dramatically taking the chequered flag with an advertising hoarding attached the front of his car.
The third place finish still capped off a fantastic week in Scotland for the Redline Racing ace, with his ninth and tenth top six finishes of a remarkably consistent campaign moving him just nine points shy of the championship top three with four races remaining.
Tom Oliphant: “All the way through the week from Tuesday we’ve been quick. Knockhill has always been a circuit I’ve looked forward to coming back to, so I wasn’t surprised to be up there and I really enjoyed racing at the front of the field and producing some great racing for the fans.
“In race two we started slightly uphill and the red lights stayed on for so long, the clutch went and I was lucky to only lose one position. After that, we had good pace and I was playing it safe really, we pulled away from the pack behind and it came together for me in the final few laps.
“If I didn’t get hit off in the first race then I’m confident we could have come away with a pair of podium finishes, but the pace was there this weekend and we’ve got to carry this momentum into Silverstone now and push to get ourselves back on the podium.”
The penultimate meeting of the 2017 Porsche Carrera Cup GB season takes place at Silverstone next month (16/17 September), before the championship returns to Brands Hatch and the Grand Prix circuit for the season finale (30 September/1 October).
Image from Dan Bathie/Porsche.