Podium Potential Goes Unrewarded For Oliphant At Snetterton
Tom Oliphant saw his hopes of a podium go unrewarded at Snetterton this past weekend (June 12/13), as the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship took centre stage in front of returning spectators.
Back behind the wheel of his BMW 330i M Sport five weeks on from a bruising curtain-raiser at Thruxton, the Team BMW driver was left to rue what might have been after being spun out of second place in the reverse grid contest.
Fine-tuning his rear-wheel-drive machine during Saturday’s two practice sessions, the 30-year-old showed blistering speed during qualifying, which saw the Top Ten Showdown format return after debuting last year.
Comfortably progressing into the final ten-minute session to decide pole position, Oliphant continued to set a strong pace but unfortunately saw his fastest lap - which would have placed him sixth - disallowed due to exceeding track limits, leaving him ninth.
With the searing weather conditions continuing into race day, the BRDC member elected to run the soft option tyre for the opening 12-lap encounter. Launching off the fifth row of the grid, Oliphant found himself in a number of wheel-to-wheel battles during a frenetic opener, progressing up to eighth.
Race two would see the West Surrey Racing driver make more gains as he added to his points tally with a top six finish. Switching to the medium tyre compound, the one-time race winner held station early on before becoming one of the fastest cars on-track during the latter stages.
Muscling his way up a few spots, the Quenched Drinks-backed racer took the chequered flag in sixth place to put himself in prime position to benefit from the reverse grid draw for race three.
With number seven drawn out of the bowl, the former Ginetta GT4 Supercup champion lined up on the outside of the front row and with his sights set on the podium.
Pressuring team-mate Stephen Jelley as soon as the lights went out, Oliphant hounded his BMW counterpart on lap one - flashing his lights to signal his intention.
His aspirations for silverware were extinguished on just the second lap though after he was sent spinning exiting Agostini.
As the front runners concertinaed together, Oliphant defended from the chasing Tom Ingram whilst also attacking Jelley, and the result would leave him recovering on the grass, ultimately in 16th.
Tom Oliphant: “For the second weekend in a row I’m leaving the circuit thinking about what might have been through no fault of my own.
“We were chasing our tails a bit after opening practice but we worked hard and had the car in the sweet spot come qualifying. Although we should have been higher, it was a good starting block for Sunday.
“Races one and two went to plan in terms of making progress and things looked good as we were drawn onto the front row for race three. Unfortunately, due to other drivers I wasn’t able to reap the rewards that our pace deserved.
“If there are any positives to take from the weekend then it is that I’m going to Brands Hatch without any success ballast. It holds happy memories for me after winning there last year and we’re going to need three big results if I’m to ignite my championship challenge."
The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship now heads to Brands Hatch in under two weeks’ time on June 26/27 for Rounds 7, 8 & 9 of the 2021 campaign.
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.