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  • Simon Paice

Tom Oliphant Shows Fighting Spirit With Top Five Finish At The Bend

A brilliant charge forward to a fifth-place finish was the highlight of a challenging return to Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series action for Tom Oliphant at Tailem Bend (01-02 June).

Following a lengthy seven-week break since the last rounds at Phillip Island, Oliphant got back on track hoping to recapture the form that saw him take a brilliant second win of his TCR Australia career in the event prior at Symmons Plains Raceway.

Making his first ever visit to the Shell V Power Motorsport Park at The Bend, located 100km south-west of Adelaide in South Australia, Oliphant quickly got to grips with the fast and flowing 3.4km circuit with reigning TCR Australia champions HMO Customer Racing.

The British racer got a taste of home as rain fell throughout Friday practice, with good wet pace seeing him top the times in the second session. The traditional sunshine returned for the weekend though, meaning he had to quickly adapt to the dry circuit come qualifying on Saturday.

Running well in his Hyundai i30 N TCR, Oliphant just missed out on a top six spot and progression into the pole position shootout by only a tenth of a second as he finished seventh overall on the timesheets.

Oliphant received a five-place grid penalty though having swapped to his team-mate Buchan’s i30 N TCR chassis for the event. Starting in 12th place, a frustrating start saw him receive unnecessary contact from another driver at the first corner.

As he started to recover from that and regain positions, he was on the receiving end of another poor move and lost ground again. Nursing a damaged car, he fought well to get up to 11th place and was unlucky not to make a move stick for 10th, which would have earnt him the reverse grid pole.

Fired up from the contact in the opener, the two-time British Touring Car Championship race-winner put in a superb charge in race two. Utilising all of his tin-top experience to pick his way through a chaotic opening couple of laps, he gained four places to seventh spot.

After a short safety car period, he was immediately on the offensive again at the restart and pulled off a great move on Jordan Cox for sixth. A good run out of the final corner then netted him fifth from Ryan Casha, before some exciting side-by-side action through the opening sequence of corners culminated in Oliphant grabbing fourth from Ben Bargwanna.

The 33-year-old talent then impressively closed down a four-second gap to his team-mate Buchan ahead, posting the fastest lap of the race as he just got into position to challenge for the podium when the chequered flag came out.

Oliphant’s hopes of a similar rise in the final race of the weekend were immediately derailed though as his car’s coolant pressure shot up on the formation laps. That resulted in a coolant leak, which quickly led to an early retirement from the race.

Tom Oliphant: “It’s been a real up-and-down weekend for me. The switch to the new car was a boost and we had some great pace in it, as shown in qualifying and then race two in particular. That one was great fun, getting to show our true speed, make some moves and climb up the order.

“The other races were messy, a combination of starting further down the order than our pace warranted and an unfortunate mechanical issue, but ultimately we come away with a lot of positives and confidence that the pace is there for much better results in the next round at Queensland.”

The 2024 Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series season resumes next month (12-14 July) at Queensland Raceway.

Image from HMO Customer Racing.


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