Tom Oliphant fought his way to three points finishes at Croft this past weekend (10/11 October) on what proved to be a frustrating seventh event of the 2020 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season.
Entering the business end of the campaign, three action-packed contests around the North Yorkshire venue saw the Team BMW driver produce a battling display where his results didn’t reflect the true potential of the pace he possessed.
The West Surrey Racing ace kicked off his weekend on the right foot as he carried his front-running practice speed to an equal career-best qualifying of fourth in challenging wet conditions.
Launching off the second row of the grid ladened with 30kgs of success ballast for race one, the 30-year-old was comfortably inside the top five on the opening tour before he was forced to take avoiding action of an incident in front of him at the Complex.
Dropping down the order, the Sports Alive-backed racer slipped into the midfield but showed plenty of speed as he battled back to recover to 11th at the chequered flag.
Free of success ballast, Oliphant served up another charging drive in race two and climbed up into the top ten to finish seventh, with a late eye-catching move into the hairpin one of the highlights.
Narrowly missing out on the reverse grid draw for pole position, the British Racing Driver’s Club member found himself in the thick of the action during what was a frenetic final contest around the 2.13-mile circuit.
Jumping up from seventh to fifth on the first lap, Oliphant spent a majority of the race hounding the Honda duo of Matt Neal and Jake Hill, however he was unable to find a way past despite having the pace on both of them.
Dropping a spot in the latter stages, the former Ginetta GT4 Supercup champion held on to cap off his weekend with a third points finish of the day in sixth place. Leaving Croft, Oliphant remains sixth in the overall BTCC Drivers’ Championship.
Tom Oliphant: “Three points finishes is always good to come away with but after qualifying in fourth on Saturday I'm ultimately frustrated that we didn't come away with more. We had the pace to win but the luck just didn't fall our way.
"I had nowhere to go when Ash Sutton and Rory Butcher came together in race one and that sort of put us on the back foot from there. Fighting back to 11th and then seventh put us in the mix for the reverse grid but we missed out on the draw by one spot.
"In race three the car felt great and I had a lot of pace but I just couldn't get past Neal, he drove a really wide car and sixth was ultimately the best we could do. We gave it everything we could this weekend but it was hard work in the traffic; had we not been caught up in the race one chaos I think we could have won a race.
"Finishing in the top five overall this year is still very much alive so we'll regroup and aim to bounce back at Snetterton in a couple of weeks' time."
The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship heads to Snetterton next on October 24/25 for the penultimate event of the season.
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.