- Chris Ashby
Tom Oliphant Sets Up Jack Sears Trophy Showdown With Superb Silverstone
Tom Oliphant served up a spectacular performance in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone this past weekend (28/29 September) to set up a Jack Sears Trophy title showdown next month. Three hard-fought top seven finishes across the penultimate meeting of the season not only made him the top BMW points scorer over the weekend, but also allowed him to close to within 11 points of Rory Butcher in the JST standings. Having seen his front-running pace go unrewarded at Knockhill last time out, the West Surrey Racing driver headed to the home of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, of which he is a proud member of, keen to bounce back with a trio of top results. Showing his pace in both free practice sessions behind the wheel of his BMW 330i M Sport, Oliphant equalled the best performance of his BTCC career in qualifying as he powered his way to the fifth fastest time Powering his rear-wheel-drive machine off the line in race one, Oliphant endured a race of attrition as he fought tooth-and-nail in the fight for the podium. Firmly in the mix in the opening stages, the 29-year-old ultimately settled for a fifth place finish on the soft tyre. Race two would see Oliphant come close to scoring a maiden BTCC win amidst challenging conditions. Charging towards the front from the third row, the Haines Watts Esher and Sports Alive-backed driver produced a superlative move for the lead at Brooklands and soon began to build an advantage. As conditions deteriorated, a safety car neutralised proceedings. When the action restarted, the Leamington Spa based racer was unable to hang on with his slick tyres and salvaged seventh when the race was ended early with a red flag. The third and final race approved to be just as dramatic as treacherous conditions once again played their part. With all cars starting on slick tyres, the heavens opened soon after the lights turned to green and left a majority of the field diving for the pit lane to switch to wet rubber. Rejoining towards the back of the field on lap four, Oliphant soon began to scythe his way through the slick-shod cars and charged to fourth place at the chequered flag - taking a clean sweep of Jack Sears Trophy victories in the process. Leaving Silverstone, Oliphant moves up to 11th in the BTCC Drivers’ Championship and has closed up in the Jack Sears Trophy, whilst Team BMW are second and first in the BTCC Teams’ Championship and BTCC Manufacturer/Constructors Championship respectively. Tom Oliphant: “To come away with three top seven finishes, victory in the Jack Sears Trophy and finish as the top BMW points scorer is something that I can be happy about - we have a chance now heading to Brands Hatch. “We’ve had the pace since we rolled out in FP1 and that has been the case all weekend. I’m obviously gutted about what happened in race two as we had that pretty much won and I personally feel that the red flag should have come out earlier with the conditions. “Race three was pretty mega though as the team made the right call, nailed the pit-stop and then we had fantastic pace to climb up to fourth. I think I could have nabbed a podium had I not been dicing with another car when I left the pit-lane, but that is one of those things. We can be very happy with our weekend. “We’re going to Brands Hatch within 11 points of Rory [Butcher] in the Jack Sears Trophy and I’ll obviously be pushing to help BMW to win the Drivers’, Teams’ and Manufacturers’ titles. I can’t wait to get there.” The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship heads to Brands Hatch GP for the final event of the 2019 season on October 12/13.
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.