Oliphant Takes Championship Lead With Landmark Middle East Win
Tom Oliphant has written his name into the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East history books after taking victory in the championship’s milestone one hundredth race at the Dubai Autodrome this past weekend (8/9 December). After launching the season in style with a race victory and a second place finish in Bahrain three weeks prior, Oliphant would superbly replicate the results in Dubai to take the championship lead for the first time heading into the series’ festive break. Oliphant headed back to Dubai with a positive record around the 3.35 mile Autodrome circuit, having enjoyed a class victory in the 24 Hour race there back in January last year, and then a pair of podium finishes in his first Porsche Middle East campaign. The 27 year old was straight on the front-running pace on Friday, with a strong lap-time in the opening qualifying session placing his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car in third position on the grid for the first race that afternoon, which he would have to contest with older tyres than his fellow front-runners. A strong start saw Oliphant produce a slick move on the opening lap to move up to second place, however from there it proved to be a relatively subdued affair for the Leamington Spa racer as he held position throughout to take a top two finish. With new tyres on his Lechner Racing machine for day two, Oliphant would fully showcase his true pace as he stormed to the top of the timesheets in free practice, before a repeat performance in qualifying would earn him a superb first pole position in the series by four tenths of a second. A great launch off the line ensured the Philips Automotive and Horizon Specialities supported driver would maintain his advantage through a frenetic opening few corners, before he started to stretch his legs and build a lead at the front of the pack as the race progressed. The race wouldn’t be completely plain-sailing however as tyre wear in the closing stages allowed Al Faisal Al Zubair to close onto his tail, but some impressive defensive driving on the final lap ensured Oliphant would hold him off and take chequered flag for his second victory in three races. Those successes mean he now holds a six point lead atop the standings ahead of the championship’s return to Dubai for Rounds Five and Six on 26/27 January 2018, before the series heads to the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi a week later, 2/3 February 2018. Tom Oliphant: “It’s a real honour to have won the 100th race in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East. The championship has a brilliant history and I’m really pleased to enjoy that landmark moment and take the championship lead for the first time. “It was tough on Friday on older tyres for the race, so I was delighted to come away with a second place. We could show our true pace on Saturday though and to convert a first pole position in the series into a lights-to-flag win was really special. “I got a really good start to the race and managed to stay ahead into turn one. I knew the first few laps would be difficult, but I was able to start to pull a gap in front. There was some pressure at the end as my tyres started to wear, but I was able to defend my position and cross the line in first. “I don’t think I’ll ever get over how it feels to stand on the top step of the podium and hear your national anthem being played. It’s certainly a moment I want to experience again and we aim to recharge over the festive break and come back even stronger in Dubai in January.”
Image from Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East.