Tom Oliphant served up a dream performance in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship this past weekend (June 29/30) at Oulton Park, scoring a career-best finish of second place in the reverse grid encounter, as well as a further two top six finishes.
On what proved to a stellar weekend for West Surrey Racing as a whole, Oliphant also claimed outright honours in the Jack Sears Trophy for the first time in his career to add another piece of silverware to his 2019 tally.
Arriving at the Cheshire venue for the fifth event of the season with high hopes, the annual visit to Oulton Park had added significance for the Team BMW racer with it being his local event - having been born and raised only five minutes down the road in Tarporley.
Eager to put on a star performance in front of a bumper home crowd, the West Surrey Racing driver worked through a variety of qualifying and race runs in Saturday’s two free practice sessions ahead of the 30-minute battle for pole position.
At the wheel of his BMW 330i M Sport, the British Racing Drivers’ Club Member enjoyed a solid showing as he set a best time of 1:26.318 to secure seventh on the grid and make it three WSR BMW’s inside the top seven.
Bogging down as the lights went out for race one, the manufacturer-backed driver held position as the field streamed through Cascades and settled into a good rhythm. Remaining on the back of the top six, Oliphant soon gained a spot as Matt Neal retired on lap five - bringing out the safety car.
Following several neutralised laps, the action resumed with Oliphant hounding the back of Sam Tordoff. A resolute defence from the Honda driver left the Haines Watts Esher-sponsored racer to settle for sixth place, kicking his race day off on the right note.
One of only a handful of drivers to not run the option soft tyre in race two, the 28-year-old made a blistering start and had soon rocketed into fourth as the 30-car grid streamed through the opening sequence of corners.
Beginning to apply pressure to third-placed Dan Cammish, Oliphant saw his momentum thwarted by a second safety car in the latter stages of the 18-lap encounter. Holding station in the remaining laps, the 2015 Ginetta GT4 SuperCup champion brought the car home to finish fourth, narrowly missing out on the rostrum.
Virtue of the reverse grid draw, Oliphant lined up in ninth for the final race of the day with the soft tyre bolted onto his rear-wheel-drive machine. It proved to be a frenetic affair from start-to-finish, with Oliphant picking his way through the early chaos to superbly rise to fifth place.
Latching himself onto the back of Tordoff for the second time in the day, Oliphant kept the pressure on as the action unfolded before scything his way past the Honda driver in the closing stages. The Cheshire racer then capitalised on a mistake from a driver ahead to grab another spot.
Crossing the line in third place, Oliphant was later promoted to second position following a post-race time penalty to on-the-road winner Jake Hill. In addition, the BMW man's best weekend in the series was topped off with the Jack Sears Trophy success.
Leaving Oulton Park, Oliphant has moved up to 11th in the BTCC Drivers’ Championship whilst Team BMW sit first in both the Manufacturer/Constructor and Teams’ Championship respectively. Oliphant has also closed the gap in the Jack Sears Trophy.
Tom Oliphant: “What a way to go into the summer break! To have my best ever weekend in the BTCC at my home circuit is just amazing, and to top it off with a second place finish is phenomenal.
“Qualifying didn’t go our way but we played it smart throughout race day and knew we had the pace to run at the front. Making progress in every race set us up for that race three result; we had a bit of luck with incidents that happened elsewhere but we were in the mix throughout.
“To win the Jack Sears Trophy for this weekend is just the cherry on top too. Overall it has been a fantastic weekend for the team and we can go into the summer break in high spirits and with our tails firmly in the air.”
The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship will next be in action at Snetterton on August 3/4 for Rounds 16, 17 & 18. Before that, Oliphant and West Surrey Racing will head to the Norfolk venue on July 16/17 for the annual two-day BTCC summer test.
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.