Tom Oliphant brought the first half of his maiden Porsche Carrera Cup GB campaign to a close on the cusp of a podium breakthrough following a hugely promising showing in the latest rounds of the championship at Croft.
After producing his season’s-best qualifying performance on Saturday, Oliphant was right in the thick of the action at the front of the field on his way to a pair of fifth-place finishes in Sunday’s two races which have cemented his top-five championship standing.
Croft was a happy hunting ground for Oliphant during his title-winning Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup campaign last year, having taken two wins and a third place in North Yorkshire, and his impressive record at the circuit looked set to continue following a positive day of running on Friday.
Firmly establishing himself in the top four on the timesheets in both free practice sessions, the Leamington-based driver was able to convert that pace into a pair of blistering lap times in Saturday’s qualifying session to put himself fourth and third on the grid for Sunday’s races, both of which were televised live on ITV4.
A the loss of momentum off the start line in race one meant he would go on to emerge from the first lap in sixth position.
Determined to regain the lost ground, Oliphant quickly shrugged off the attentions of former British GT champion Bradley Ellis behind before going on the attack, with a slick move into the hairpin on lap six securing him fifth at the expense of Tom Sharp.
As the race progressed, Oliphant was visibly faster than the man in front Charlie Eastwood, but was unable to forge an overtaking opportunity without risking his strong position, so maintained fifth place to the flag to get more crucial championship points on the board.
Oliphant was confident of breaking his podium duck in the second race and he got it off to a perfect start as he rose to second position heading through Clervaux for the first time.
Oliphant immediately got his head down and started pulling away from the pack behind in his Redline Racing Porsche, but as increasing rainfall made track conditions difficult, an unfortunate slide across the grass at Sunny In dropped him back to fifth.
With the gap to the top four proving too large to breach, Oliphant would go on to maintain his top-five standing through to the finish.
While not the results he wanted from the weekend, the two fifth-place finishes mean Oliphant remains as one of only two drivers in the field to finish every race in the top six so far this season.
He said: “Naturally I’m disappointed not to come away from the weekend with a podium finish but I’m really happy with the step forwards, we’ve made with the pace of the car and we’re really knocking firmly on the door of the top three now.
“We were unfortunate to lose out in the chaos at the start of the opening race, but we got the opportunity to be at the front in race two. I got second off the line and was pulling clear of Tom Sharp behind when the rain began to increase.
“I went into Sunny In the same as I had done every lap and I can’t work out why on that occasion the rear of the car didn’t hold. Maybe I should have backed off and settled for second, but I’m a racing driver and I’m never happy with second.”
The Porsche Carrera Cup GB season now heads into a six-week summer break before the next rounds at Snetterton in Norfolk on July 30/31.