Securing his best results in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship last weekend at Snetterton, Tom Oliphant is highlighting a huge stride forward in racing knowledge of this championship in his first year.
The Ciceley Motorsport Mercedes-Benz driver was taking part in the mid-season test at Snetterton a few weeks ahead of the event. However, car issues severely lacked his running and the twenty-seven year old was to be denied certain knowledge of the Norfolk circuit compared to his rivals who had issue free test sessions.
Despite this, on Saturday a lack of running didn’t seem to be an issue as in both qualifying sessions, with the second being a no-ballast session to decide the grid for the special anniversary Diamond Double event, Tom showed strong top ten pace as he qualified tenth in both sessions. The second being more impressive considering the rest of the field was supposed to be equal with a lack of ballast.
“Saturday was particularly pleasing for me,” Confirmed Oliphant,
“with our out and out pace to qualify in the top ten in the first session, then to raise our game against an equal field and deliver P10 again, especially with the Mercedes not being the strongest package for this circuit.”
Race one in terribly wet conditions saw the driver from Cheshire drive a composed opening lap through other people’s drama, he was to remain in the top ten throughout the whole of the twelve lap encounter and finished a well deserved eighth. His best finish yet in the BTCC.
Race two saw a determined Oliphant attempt to gain positions he has never reached before in this championship. Not long after reaching seventh, Tom worked his way into the top six for the first time this year. Despite losing a couple positions after those heights, Oliphant can be buoyed by the fact that he finished in the top ten in consecutive races for the first time.
Hopes were high for race three, the zero ballast and double points event in celebration of sixty years of the BTCC would have been the perfect opportunity for Tom to increase his championship positions.
However, the great weekend was to come to an abrupt halt on lap three when he was spun exiting the hairpin and then subsequently hit by an unsighted Brett Smith. Race ending damage was the result and the green Mercedes-Benz was left on the side of the track.
Despite the disappointment in the final race. Tom was incredibly pleased with his Snetterton performances,
“All in all it’s been an awesome weekend. I’ve made another big step forwards in the BTCC, improving my pace and my racecraft, and being in the top ten on merit in both qualifying and the races is a fantastic feeling and it shows how far we have come in the series.
“They were really difficult conditions in the races, especially in the opener when we could barely see anything for the first five laps.
“I coped well with the conditions though, which is another sign of how much more comfortable I feel in the car, and to bring it home in eighth was brilliant.
“To follow that up with the same result in race two was fantastic and I feel we could have done the same or more in the final race. I had some back luck on the first lap with my position on track and got put back, and then one driver tried really hard to spin me and at the third attempt he succeeded.
“Fortunately we came off quite lightly with the damage to the car, and while it’s a hugely frustrating end to the weekend, we come away really happy with our speed and progress across the meeting and it is a positive sign for the rest of the season.”