Tom Oliphant brought his 2016/17 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East campaign to a close in fantastic style with a pair of second-place finishes during the penultimate meeting of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit.
With a calendar clash with the Donington Park round of the Porsche Carrera Cup GB ruling him out of next month’s finale, Oliphant would bring his hugely impressive run in the Middle East series to an end one weekend early.
Friday’s qualifying session saw him miss out on pole position by just thirty-two thousandths of a second, though his second place on the grid would still mark his best qualifying performance of the series.
The Leamington racer would maintain his second position during a close-fought opening lap in the first race before going on to produce a superb performance as he placed race leader Ryan Cullen under immense pressure throughout the 20-lap encounter.
Oliphant drew his nose alongside on a couple of occasions, but not wanting to threaten his podium position with a risky overtaking move he brought his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car home in a richly deserved second place.
Knowing he had more pace to show in his Lechner Racing machine, Oliphant headed into the final day of action determined to claim top spot.
However, it proved to be a case of deja-vu in qualifying as he would once again cruelly miss out on pole position by less than a tenth of a second.
A brilliant launch off the line for race two would see Oliphant immediately tucked under the rear wing of leader Cullen heading around the opening lap, which duly set the tone for another thrilling race of nose-to-tail action between the two.
After staying hot on the heels of Cullen as they pulled clear of their pursuers, Oliphant mounted a spirited challenge for the race victory in the closing laps but was again forced to settle for second.
Oliphant’s outstanding second place double means he ended his five-weekend spell in the Middle East series lying third in the points standings, just seven points off second, having amassed an impressive six podium finishes in ten races.
He said: “This meeting was another massive step in the right direction for us. We went to Bahrain with the goal of winning a race and we got so close.
“My pace over the whole weekend was very strong and I felt very positive throughout.
“I was therefore naturally disappointed not to have taken a win, but we had two fantastic races right at the front of the grid.”