Tom Oliphant narrowly missed out on a brilliant podium finish during an impressive first outing in the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series at Symmons Plains Raceway (24-26 February).
Making history as the first ever international driver to compete in the championship full-time, Oliphant made great progress across his maiden weekend behind the wheel of his Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR with Autoglym Ashley Seward Motorsport.
Having not driven the Alfa Romeo prior to the season opener, he faced a steep learning curve across an official tyre test on Thursday and free practice on Friday, as he got to grips with the new car, a new circuit, a new tyre compound and the high temperatures of the Australian summer.
The two-time BTCC race-winner, who had only raced once in the previous 16 months, went on to qualify a strong eighth overall. He moved up one place to seventh in the opening race on Saturday afternoon, with some hugely encouraging lap times setting him up for a positive Sunday’s racing.
Lining up fourth on the reverse grid for race two, a lightning getaway shot him into third position through the first turn. Whilst he unfortunately slipped back to fifth early on, he fought his way up to fourth again and was lapping as one of the fastest cars on circuit over the second half of the race.
Finishing just a second shy of a podium finish, he followed that up with a good drive to fifth in the final race of the weekend. With a healthy points haul collected over the three races, he lies fifth in the championship standings heading into the second round at Phillip Island in Victoria (12-14 May).
Tom Oliphant: “The weekend was incredibly positive. I came in wanting three top five finishes, so to get two out of three is very pleasing. We went in the wrong direction in qualifying and the car wasn’t to my liking, but we worked well together to bring it back for the races.
“Every session I was getting more comfortable with front-wheel drive again, the car and the track. Considering our pace in the races, I’m very pleased with what we’ve achieved for the opening event, and now we move onto the next round excited for the challenge that brings.
“Considering I only had two weeks build-up for the first round and no prior testing, I’m confident that with two months now to prepare properly, I’ll come back much stronger for Phillip Island. A big thank you to Ashley Seward Motorsport, Autoglym, Win Network and i98FM, this is a fantastic opportunity and I’m loving being back racing.”
Image from TCR Australia.