Tom Oliphant produced the most impressive drive of his blossoming career to date during one of the principal race events in world motorsport this past weekend (15-18 July), as he stormed through from the field to finish fifth overall at Le Mans.
The biggest race of Oliphant’s career so far saw him competing as part of a huge 61 car grid in the Carrera Cup Le Mans race on the eve of the iconic 24 Hours race itself, with the Tarporley-born racer starring on his way to a first Porsche Carrera Cup GB podium finish of the season.
The Philips automotive lighting supported driver kicked off the meeting in positive fashion on Thursday, immediately getting to grips with the 8.47 mile Circuit de la Sarthe in glorious sunny conditions as he finished the two free practice sessions in the top ten overall.
Oliphant would be unable to show his true pace in qualifying later that day however, with traffic hampering his early flying laps, before another car forcing him off circuit heading onto the Mulsanne Straight would result in damage and a premature end to his session.
That left him down in sixteenth on the grid for Saturday’s race, but that would not phase the Leamington Spa racer as he took to the rolling start with hundreds of thousands of fans watching on trackside and through live television and online coverage.
A sensational opening lap would see the 26 year old scythe his way through the field to seventh place, a gain of no less than nine positions, before the mammoth field headed into an early safety car period to allow for the recovery of some stricken cars.
After the restart, Oliphant would remain in the middle of a fierce battle for the top ten positions throughout the remainder of the forty-five minute race in his Redline Racing machine, slipping to ninth at one stage before mounting a spirited fightback in the closing laps.
As the slipstreaming nature of the circuit often meant the cars were two or three abreast heading down the long straights, Oliphant would once again showcase his fearless and creative brand of overtaking as he worked his way back up to seventh.
The Horizon Specialities backed driver was not content with just that though and on lap seven, he would produce one of the most stunning overtaking moves of the race as he stormed past two cars at once heading into Indianapolis to rise into fifth position.
From there, a stellar defensive drive saw Oliphant rebuff the challenge of his rivals to take the chequered flag at Le Mans in fifth position overall and third of the Carrera Cup GB contenders, marking his first podium finish of the season to cement his fourth place in the points standings.
While the Porsche Carrera Cup GB now enters a six week break before the visit to Snetterton on 29/30 July, Oliphant’s next race outing comes on 15/16 July as he returns to the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup grid to race in support of the F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Tom Oliphant: “I’m over the moon with the result. After qualifying, I was focusing on getting into the top ten, so to come through the field and finish in the top five was amazing, and it’s the perfect way to cap off a brilliant week at Le Mans.
“Throughout the meeting we have had the pace to run at the front of the field, but some bad luck meant we didn’t get the chance to show what we could really do in practice and qualifying, so it was great to really show our true potential in the race. It’s been a dream come true to race at this iconic circuit, so to stand on the podium just makes it even more special. I would like to thank the Redline team and all my sponsors, family and friends for their support getting to this stage, and now I’m focused on building on this and having a very strong second half of the season.”
Image from Dan Bathie/Porsche.