Oliphant takes maiden victory in thrilling final race of the day

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Oliphant won for the first time in the BTCC. Photo credit: media

Tom Oliphant claimed his first Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship victory in race three at Brands Hatch. The Team BMW driver resisted intense pressure in the closing stages from former champion Ash Sutton to win his 66th race in the series. Stephen Jelley inherited third late in the race as a puncture again ruined Rory Butcher’s race when he had looked on for a podium position.

As the lights went out, pole sitter Aiden Moffat made a good getaway to lead but fellow front row starter Jack Goff was swamped by the sea of rear wheel drive cars starting around him and dropped to fifth. Jelley, who made the best start of the front runners, moved into second, with Oliphant third and James Gornall fourth.

Further round the opening lap Goff was in more strife, clashing with the Hyundai of Senna Proctor and spinning into Tom Ingram’s Toyota. Adam Morgan was forced to take to the grass in avoidance. Goff and Ingram would retire immediately and Morgan would be forced out of the race later on as a result of the incident.

At the front, Oliphant went from third to first in one manoeuvre getting a better run out of Clark Curve and pulling alongside Moffat and Jelley. He then used his momentum to swoop around the outside of them before the braking point for Paddock Hill Bend at the start of lap two. Moffat managed to resist the pressure from Jelley to sit second. However, he threw his chances of a podium finish away later that lap when he ran wide at Westfield. Sutton gained two places in one as he overtook Jelley whilst Moffat had his off track excursion. This meant that at the end of lap two Oliphant led from Sutton, Jelley, Butcher and Moffat.

Butcher was still on a charge though and he dispatched Jelley at Paddock Hill Bend at the start of lap three to move into the podium positions and set off in pursuit of the front two.

By lap five there was just half a second covering the top three and Sutton was beginning to climb all over the back of Oliphant, looking for a way through. However, Oliphant was able to keep him behind without losing too much time by driving overly defensive lines.

On lap eight there was drama as Andy Neate ended up in the gravel and out of the race from a promising top ten position. Shortly after, in a completely unrelated incident, Dan Cammish slowed to a stop with his second technical problem in two races.

Whilst the front four settled into their rhythm, the best battles were happening further back in the top ten. Chris Smiley passed Moffat at Paddock Hill Bend for fifth, whilst Turkington moved into eighth past Jackson. Turkington’s charge continued a couple of laps later as he overtook Gornall for seventh.

With three laps remaining, third placed Butcher slowed with a puncture to retire from a podium position for the second time in three races. Further round the lap, Smiley ended up in the barriers at Stirling’s, crashing out from fourth. The heartache for the Motorbase team increased as Butcher’s team-mate Ollie Jackson also retired with a puncture, dropping out of the top ten in the process.

Sutton continued to push Oliphant but he could not find a way through. His attempts on the final lap were thwarted by the yellow flags at Stirling’s for Smiley’s stricken Hyundai. Oliphant drove brilliantly to manage not to give Sutton a chance to squeeze through. He held his nerve to take the flag as a BTCC winner for the first time. Sutton was second, just three tenths of a second adrift. Jelley was a lonely third ahead of Moffat in the second Infiniti.

Turkington was fifth adding to an already huge points haul from the meeting to extend his championship lead. Matt Neal was sixth from 24th on the grid in an impressive fight through the field. Gornall was a best ever seventh ahead of Tom Chilton, who like Neal came from the back of the grid. Senna Proctor was ninth despite his first lap contact, with Sam Osbourne rounding out the top ten.

For the full classification see here.

The championship continues at Oulton Park in two weeks’ time.

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