Tom Oliphant fought his way to a trio of top ten finishes during a challenging return to the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series at Sandown International Raceway this past weekend (09-10 September).
After having to miss the last round at Queensland to celebrate his wedding in the UK, Oliphant returned to action at the Victoria-based circuit for his second outing in the Autoglym Ashley Seward Motorsport prepared Lynk & Co 03 TCR.
With confidence high following an impressive maiden outing in the Lynk & Co at Phillip Island back in May and then a stunning race victory in the team’s Alfa Romeo at Winton the next month, Oliphant was left frustrated as a variety of issues left him unable to show his front-running pace again.
The two-time British Touring Car Championship race-winner completed his first ever laps of the unique Sandown circuit during free practice on Friday, though a rain for the opening session meant he was limited to just 25 minutes of dry running in session two.
That put him on the back foot for qualifying the next day against drivers with considerably more experience of the circuit and he was left to settle for 12th overall on the timesheets. A marked improvement in his lap times though meant he was confident of moving forward in race one.
After surviving opening lap contact through the tight first chicane and negotiating an early safety car period, Oliphant settled into a consistent run of laps as he gained important track knowledge. Crucially he moved up a couple of places too, securing him the reverse grid pole position for race two.
Oliphant got his elbows out at the start of race two to hold the lead through the opening lap, however it quickly became apparent that a continued issue with a lack of straight-line speed would force him to be on the defensive throughout the 21-lap contest.
Consistently under pressure down the long straights, he was powerless to prevent himself slipping down to the order to eighth at the chequered flag. Some good changes to the car for the final race meant he was able to fight forward from 11th to eighth to complete his top ten treble.
Tom Oliphant: “After the joy of the victory at Winton in my last outing, this really hasn’t been the weekend we wanted. It was always going to be tough coming here with no experience of the track, but the straight-line issues with the car meant we didn’t really stand a chance of fighting at the front.
“I love the track and it’s definitely one of the best I’ve driven in Australia so far, getting to attack the kerbs and feel the car over them. I felt I adapted to the track well and was improving my lap times through testing and qualifying, before race one was able improving my knowledge in race conditions.
“I gave it everything in race two but there was nothing I could do sadly. The team made some big changes for the final race and that was the best the car felt, so we’ve learnt some good things to take into Sydney next. Ultimately we have some issues to solve, but we’re confident we go into the next round with a stronger package all round.”
Oliphant, who races with the support of Win Network and i98FM, will next be in action at Sydney Motorsport Park in New South Wales on 03/04 November.
Image from Ashley Seward Motorsport.