Tom Oliphant further cemented his status as a top contender for podium finishes in the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series after a hugely promising maiden outing in his new Lynk & Co 03 TCR at Phillip Island this past weekend (12-14 May).
Three months on from an impressive debut in the championship at Symmons Plains Raceway, Oliphant returned to action for the second event of the season at the iconic Phillip Island circuit in his new Autoglym Ashley Seward Motorsport prepared Lynk & Co 03 TCR.
Oliphant, who is making history as the first ever international driver to compete in TCR Australia full-time, headed into the event with only one previous test day in the car, meaning that two free practice sessions on Friday were crucial for him to get up to speed with both the car and the circuit.
An encouraging start saw Oliphant produce top five pace in both of the sessions, which left him in a buoyant mood heading into qualifying. A blistering lap in Q1 saw him finish second overall on the timesheets, however he couldn’t quite replicate it in Q2 as he secured fifth on the grid for race one.
A tough start to the opener saw Oliphant suffer instant wheelspin off the line, dropping him back to 11th position. Settling into a rhythm in his new car, he started to fight back and picked off a couple of other cars as he settled inside the top ten.
Unfortunately, his chances of making a push for the top six came to a sudden halt when a high-speed tyre blowout forced the two-time BTCC race-winner off the road. After having to take to the pitlane for a replacement, he was ultimately not classified in the race result.
After another slow start to race two initially dropped him back to 13th, he produced an immediate recovery charge to slot into the top ten by the end of lap three. Keeping pressure on the cars ahead whilst nursing damage from first lap contact, a great move on the last lap netted him an eighth-place finish.
Oliphant, who races with the support of Win Network and i98FM, sadly lost ground again at the start of race three as he avoided a stalled car ahead of him. Another spirited drive from there saw him lap as one of the fastest cars on circuit as he scored another strong points finish in ninth.
Tom Oliphant: “It’s been such a frustrating weekend in terms of the races and the results, as our pace deserved so much more, but it’s been a fantastic learning experience for me and the team with the new car and it’s massively encouraging to see that we have podium pace from the off.
“Race one was disappointing for many reasons. The start wasn’t great and then just as the car was coming alive and I was pushing forward, we had a tyre blow. It’s an issue a few teams have faced this weekend and sadly it put us on the back foot for the remaining races too with the subsequent starting positions.
“Losing ground again at the start of both races on Sunday was a shame, but I was able to get in the thick of the action and make some progress back in both which was pleasing. I feel I’ve got a good feel of the car in race conditions now and that’s a huge positive for Winton next.
“The opening qualifying session was a real indication of where we can be I feel. We’ve got some work to do in different areas and there’s still a lot to learn with this car of course, but we’re on the right track and our first silverware won’t be long down the line.”
The third round of the 2023 Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series takes place at Winton Motor Raceway in Victoria on 09-11 June.