Tom Oliphant has made a big step forward in his quest to win the 2017/18 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East title with a crucial fourth victory of the season in Abu Dhabi (2/3 February).
A hard fought win and a second place finish, coupled with trouble for his chief championship rival, means Oliphant now holds a nineteen point advantage at the top of the standings with four races remaining.
The 27 year old headed into the meeting with confidence high after a brilliant victory in Dubai a week prior, and returned to the Yas Marina Circuit having enjoyed a podium double on his debut there twelve months ago.
Oliphant kicked off the meeting in positive fashion as he posted the quickest time in first practice, before going on to qualify second on the grid for race one in his Lechner Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. The opening encounter would prove to be a relatively subdued affair, with Oliphant electing to take no risks as he ran close to the leader throughout on his way to a crucial second place finish.
With Al Faisal Al Zubair finishing in third, the Leamington Spa racer would take an eight point lead into the second day of action, which he started by once again topping the timesheets in free practice. An unfortunate lock up on his best lap would leave him qualifying third for race two, however he wouldn’t stay there for long as he benefitted from a chaotic opening lap to storm to the front.
Immediate pressure from Oliphant would pay dividends as a mistake from the race leader and then contact between Al Zubair and another driver would give him a lead which he held in style for the remainder of the race.
A fourth victory in the last seven races extends his run of finishing in the top two in every race so far, and combined with a seventh place finish for his title rival, ensures he holds a healthy lead atop the standings.
Oliphant now heads into the next meeting at Bahrain on 16/17 March determined to wrap up the title with a meeting to spare, due to clashing commitments in the UK forcing him to miss April’s season finale.
Tom Oliphant:“It’s been another brilliant weekend of racing in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East and I’m ecstatic to have extended my championship lead to nineteen points.
“We didn’t quite have the pace to take the win on Friday, but then Saturday could not have gone much better. To climb from third on the grid and take another victory is a fantastic feeling.
“I feel I’ve really hit my groove in the championship this year and to have finished in the top two in all the races so far is brilliant. I can’t thank Lechner Racing enough for giving me a fantastic car every meeting.
“I now return to Bahrain next month with a realistic chance of securing championship success and I’m going to give it absolutely everything I’ve got to take the title.”
Image from Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East.