Tom Oliphant produced a battling display at Thruxton this past weekend (May 18/19) as the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship made the first of two visits to the Hampshire venue this year.
In what proved to be a race day of ‘what-ifs’, the Team BMW driver had to bounce back from a difficult race one to round the day out with a charging performance inside the points.
Riding a wave of momentum after scoring a breakthrough BTCC podium at Donington Park last time out, the West Surrey Racing driver was keen to build on his recent success and set himself up for a strong race day in qualifying at the wheel of his BMW 330i M-Sport.
Setting a best time of 1:16.043 in what proved to be a record-breaking session, the Haines Watts Esher supported ace secured a tenth place starting spot and crucially saved a set of tyres for race day after electing to sit out the last few minutes of running time.
Lining up on the fifth row of the grid, Oliphant was left to ponder what might have been in the opening encounter. Launching off the line in his rear-wheel-drive machine, the BMW man had soon made his way up to eighth and looked on course to score a solid haul of points.
However, the manufacturer-backed driver found himself on the receiving end of a drive-through penalty after being adjudged to have started out of position. After serving his penalty, the 28-year-old rejoined at the back of the grid and valiantly clawed his way back up to cross the line in 23rd.
Starting towards the rear of the field in race two, Oliphant showcased his overtaking prowess as he scythed his way up the order. Jumping into the top 20 after the opening few laps, the Leamington Spa-based racer soon began to hunt down those in the points.
Dispatching both Stephen Jelley and Daniel Rowbottom in the latter stages, Oliphant was able to break into the top 15 and round out the points finishers as he claimed the chequered flag, scoring a single point.
Oliphant’s fightback continued in the third and final race of the weekend as he produced a scintillating charge to seventh. Making progress as soon as the lights went out, he emerged in the thick of the action as he diced with Jason Plato, Matt Neal and team-mate Colin Turkington.
Ultimately crossing the line to finish seventh, Oliphant’s fighting spirited was rewarded with a solid haul of points. That means that leaving Thruxton, Oliphant sits 15th in the BTCC Drivers’ Championship whilst Team BMW sit second in both the Manufacturer/Constructor and Teams’ Championships.
Tom Oliphant: “It has been a weekend of what could have been really. The car and the team have been brilliant once again and collectively we have shown how good the BMW 330i M-Sport is around here.
“I will hold my hands up and say it was my mistake when it comes down to the drive-through penalty, it certainly won’t happen again. Had it not been for that then I think we would have come away from the weekend well inside the top ten in all three races, which is a bit frustrating.
“To fight my way from effectively the back of the grid over the course of three races to finish inside the top ten is pleasing, and we have learnt a lot about the car that we can use when we come back to Thruxton in August.
“We head to Croft next now and that has traditionally been a happy hunting ground for rear-wheel-drive in the past so we will see how things play out.”
Next on the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship schedule is visit to Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire on 15/16 June for Rounds 10, 11 & 12.