Tom Oliphant enjoyed a weekend to remember at Donington Park in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship as he claimed his first podium in the series this past weekend (27/28 April).
Having showed promise at the opening event of the season at Brands Hatch, the West Surrey Racing driver was back behind the wheel of his BMW 330i M Series and produced a scintillating performance for his first piece of BTCC silverware.
Fettling the set-up of his rear-wheel-drive machine in the day’s earlier two practice sessions, the BRDC member headed into qualifying with his sights set on putting himself in a strong starting position for race day.
Changing weather conditions in addition to three red flag stoppages was the tale of qualifying, with the former Ginetta GT4 SuperCup champion leaving it late before he started to propel his way up the order.
Setting a best time of 1:10.773, Oliphant ended the 30-minute session in ninth and was on course to improve further before the final stoppage put pay to his efforts.
Lining up on the fifth row of the grid for the first race of the weekend, Oliphant made a flying start as he scythed his way through the field. Working his way up into the top six in the opening laps, the Haines Watts London-backed ace was on the move further following a safety car period.
Demoting Chris Smiley to fifth after pulling off a superlative move at the final chicane, Oliphant’s progress continued on the next lap as he then moved up into fourth. With a second safety car neutralising the race, Oliphant was soon into third after Sam Tordoff made a mistake heading into the final corner.
Holding station for the remaining laps, Oliphant crossed the line to score his maiden BTCC podium in third, joining team-mate Colin Turkington on the rostrum.
Riding high after picking up his first piece of BTCC silverware, Oliphant endured a frustrating second race as he ended race two out of the points. Having run as high as second briefly, the ballast-ladened Oliphant battled to stay inside the top six, ultimately receiving contact from a rival driver which sent him tumbling down the order to finish 17th.
Free of success ballast but with the option Dunlop tyre bolted on his Team BMW machine, Oliphant served up a strong display in the final race of the weekend. Scything his way through the order, the 3 Series man worked his way into the points to finish 13th.
Tom Oliphant: “What a weekend - I’m over the moon to come away with my first podium in the BTCC! Credit has to go to everyone at West Surrey Racing and BMW as they’ve given me a brilliant car all weekend, and they deserve that result just as much as me - it’s a dream come true.
“After qualifying I had my sights set on the top five in race one and then potentially a podium in race two. As soon as the race was underway however the car felt strong and I was able to make overtake after overtake.
“It was a shame to get bumped down the order in race two but we made some good progress on the hard tyre in race three, and we can take all of the data going forward.
“Overall it has been a mega weekend and I’ve driven the best I have ever done in the BTCC. We’ve learnt a lot and we go to Thruxton confident of scoring more solid points.”
Oliphant leaves Donington Park sitting 12th in the BTCC Drivers’ Championship whilst BMW sit third in the Manufacturer/Constructor standings. The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship continues on May 18/19 at the fastest circuit in the UK, Thruxton.
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.