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  • Simon Paice

Tom Oliphant Battles On Through Difficult Sandown Opener

Tom Oliphant endured a tough start to his second season in the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series, as ongoing engine power issues blunted his challenge at Sandown International Raceway last weekend (09-11 February).

Oliphant had high hopes heading into the season opener following his switch to reigning champions HMO Customer Racing for 2024. Free practice on Friday gave him the chance to get crucial mileage behind the wheel of his Hyundai i30 N TCR, as he continues to adjust to his new machinery.

It became clear through the second session though that all was not running smoothly with his Hyundai, as the car suffered a drop in straight-line speed. This continued through qualifying, putting Oliphant down in an unrepresentative 12th on the timesheets, and went on to hamper his progress in all three races.

After initially shooting up to ninth on the opening lap of race one, the speed problem combined with a cooling issue after first lap contact left him to settle for 11th. Luck deserted him again in race two, as two cars making contact in front of him led to a suspension spring getting lodged into his radiator.

Nursing his car home to 12th at the finish, the HMO Customer Racing team put in a fantastic job to get the car repaired in the quick turnaround time before the final race. Oliphant made a great start to that one, including pulling off a smart move into the final sequence of corners.

The driver on the other end of the move retaliated by making heavy contact to the rear of Oliphant’s car though, spearing the two-time BTCC race-winner onto the grass. The subsequent damage, combined with the ongoing effects of the engine problem, ultimately led to a DNF.

After a phenomenal effort from the HMO Customer Racing team to search for solutions to the problem across the weekend, it was diagnosed after the final race as a fuel pressure issue. With that resolved, Oliphant is determined to bounce back and challenge at the front of the grid as he returns to the scene of his Australian race debut, Symmons Plains Raceway in Tasmania, for round two (15-17 March).

Tom Oliphant: “It’s been a weekend to forget ultimately. With limited pre-season track time in the car it was always going to be a challenge this weekend, but we never expected to have been battling an ongoing engine issue and the incidents on circuit.

“It’s really disappointing to start the season this way, but huge credit must go to everyone at HMO Customer Racing. They worked tirelessly from start to finish this weekend to diagnose the problem, as well as fix the race damage caused by others.

“We’re confident the solution has been found, ultimately it was a minor issue causing major consequences, and we’re going to Tasmania at full strength. I feel at home in the Hyundai, it’s a brilliant car, and I’m confident we can go and get some great results at Symmons Plains.”

Image from HMO Customer Racing.


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