Tom Oliphant fought through from sixth on the grid to take a spectacular victory and maintain his championship lead in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Dubai Autodrome this past weekend (26/27 January).
The third meeting of the campaign saw Oliphant return to Dubai with fond memories, having taken four podium finishes in his last five races there and the championship points lead for the first time with victory during the last outing in December.
Having not been on track since those last rounds seven weeks ago, Friday’s first practice session gave him the chance to get back up to speed in his Lechner Racing-prepared Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
After finishing third overall in practice, Oliphant would go on to show his class in qualifying as he emerged from an incredibly close session with a second pole position of the season by just four hundredths of a second.
Unfortunately a grid penalty carried over from the last meeting meant he would have to start race one from sixth place, however the lower position wouldn’t phase him as he took to the grid for the opening fourteen lap encounter.
A blistering start saw him gain one position off the line and another around the outside of turn one, before a slick move heading into the first hairpin would put him up to third by the end of the first lap around the 3.35 mile circuit.
The 27 year old then focused his attention on the two drivers ahead. As they started to battle, he latched right onto their bumpers and got into position to pounce as they duelled side-by-side on lap ten, seizing his opportunity heading into the second hairpin.
Diving alongside them, slight contact between the other two allowed him to storm past and take the lead in style. Oliphant then edged clear of the chasing pack and maintained a healthy lead on his way to a hard-fought third victory of the season.
Oliphant would follow up that success with another positive showing on the second day of action, which started with him topping the timesheets in morning practice, before taking a strong third on the grid in qualifying to put himself in position to challenge for victory once again.
In a race that was overshadowed by the unfortunate death of a motorcycle competitor in the race prior to them, the Leamington Spa racer made a move early on to get second place, which he maintained comfortably to the chequered flag.
The result extends Oliphant’s fantastic record of finishing in the top two in every race so far this campaign, ensuring he maintains a six point championship lead heading into rounds seven and eight at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi this coming weekend (2/3 February 2018).
Tom Oliphant: “I’m really pleased to come out of this weekend having maintained my championship lead. It was always going to be a difficult weekend having headed into the meeting with a five place grid penalty for the opening race.
“Friday was a perfect day though, having maximised my lap in qualifying to claim pole position, which put me in the best possible place of sixth on the grid. I had a mega first lap and climbed to third, and when the leaders started fighting I took full advantage.
“The win was probably my proudest moment in a Porsche and a defining moment in the championship. Saturday was a strong day, but we didn’t have the same luck in qualifying which put me third, and then a flat spot halfway through the race put a stop to me challenging for the win.
“Overall though, I was expecting to have my championship lead reduced so I’m very happy to have the same advantage as we carried into the meeting. I move onto Abu Dhabi looking to extend my lead further.”
Image from Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East.