Tom Oliphant produced a valiant race day fightback in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone this past weekend (September 26/27) to score his fourth podium of the season.
The Team BMW driver suffered suspension failure in the opening encounter but bounced back in sensational style to end a frenetic day at the 'Home of British Motor Racing' with a second place finish.
Arriving at the Northamptonshire venue carrying 30kgs of success ballast, the 30-year-old kicked off his weekend on the right foot as he piloted his BMW 330i M Sport to fifth place in qualifying.
Finishing just one hundredth of a second shy of a front row start, the British Racing Drivers Club member was confident of a strong opening race before disaster struck.
Running in the top five following a brief safety car period, Oliphant was then forced into retirement with a right rear suspension failure - an unexpected issue that couldn't have been prevented by driver or team.
Free of ballast and starting from 26th on the grid, Oliphant’s performance in race two could arguably be touted as one of his best to-date. On the move as soon as the lights went out, the Sports Alive-backed racer was up into the top 20 by the end of the opening lap and his unrelenting charge only continued.
Scything his way through the order as the laps ticked by, the former Ginetta GT4 Supercup champion was soon into the points come the halfway marker. Continuing to push on, Oliphant’s eye-catching overtakes powered him into the top ten and ultimately to ninth at the chequered flag.
Having made up a staggering 16 places, the rear-wheel-drive ace’s stellar drive was rewarded by netting pole position in the reverse grid draw.
With the sun setting on the famous venue, Oliphant made a good start from pole position however the recent start line boost reduction to his BMW allowed the Ford of Ollie Jackson to pull in front.
The West Surrey Racing ace soon began to hound race-leader Ollie Jackson. Filling the leader's mirrors, Oliphant had looked set to make the decisive move for the lead before a red flag halted proceedings.
Launching off the line in second place on the restart following a lengthy delay, the chase to pass Jackson continued for the one-time race winner but try as he might, he wasn’t able to find a way past. The arrival of Ashley Sutton into the lead battle late on prevented one last push for the win, leaving Oliphant to take a hard-fought and well-earned second place.
Oliphant remains sixth in the BTCC Drivers’ Championship following the sixth event of the season, well within touching distance of the top five.
Tom Oliphant: “Overall, I'm happy to come away with a podium, especially considering my race day started with a non-finish and then having to fight my way from the back of the grid.
"We worked as a team in qualifying to get onto the third row of the grid and in race one I had great pace to stay inside the top five; unfortunately it wasn't meant to be as the suspension failed through Copse. I had a small feeling in the steering wheel a few laps before, so knew that something wasn't right and then it let go.
"Starting from the back and with the weight out of the car in race two, I was only focused on going in one direction. The car felt amazing and I really enjoyed working my way up the order; thankfully we were rewarded for our hard work in the reverse grid draw.
"Having started on pole position in race three, the win was there for the taking. The start line boost reduction cost us on both starts, but I threw absolutely everything at Ollie to try and find a way past. Second is a good result though and it means we're still in the mix heading to Croft."
The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship continues in less than two weeks’ time when the series heads to North Yorkshire on October 10/11 for Rounds 19, 20 & 21 at Croft Circuit.
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.