Tom Oliphant made a triumphant return to the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, taking a stunning first victory in the series during the opening rounds of the 2017/18 campaign around the Bahrain International Circuit.
Racing in support of the 6 Hours of Bahrain, the final round of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship, a hugely impressive display across the meeting from the Leamington racer would culminate in a brilliant first win in one-make Porsche competition.
In only his third time racing the latest-generation Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, the 27-year-old set a blistering lap time of 2m 04.067s to miss out on top spot for race one by the narrowest of margins, just seventy-seven thousandths of a second.
That would secure him a front row start for the opening encounter, which took place under the floodlights on Friday evening. A slow launch off the line initially dropped him to fourth but a stunning move around the outside at the first corner got him back into second where he stayed to the flag.
Oliphant would go one better in the second race the next morning, however, producing an overtaking masterclass across the 12-lap race after another tough getaway dropped himto fifth on the approach to the first corner.
Another sublime move around the outside into the tight right-hander would immediately place him in third, kicking off one of the most intense battles for victory in series history as he fought tooth-and-nail with Zaid Ashkanani and Al Faisal Al Zubair.
After posting the fastest lap of the race on the third tour, Oliphant would bide his time before making a slick manoeuvre on Al Zubair heading on to the back straight on lap eight, a move which placed him on the tail of the leader.
Lap after lap of immense pressure would ultimately pay off on the penultimate tour as Oliphant forced Ashkanani into a pivotal mistake, with a slide wide at the fourth corner opening the door for the Horizon Specialities-backed racer to assume the race lead.
From there, a composed drive over the final lap-and-a-half would secure Oliphant a richly deserved first victory in the series.
“I’m over the moon to claim my first win in a Porsche category,” said Oliphant. “We were quick all week in Bahrain and after two difficult qualifying sessions, it was brilliant to fight back and claim a first and second in the two races and leave with the championship lead.”