Oliphant Launches Middle East Campaign With Brilliant Bahrain Podium

Tom Oliphant has got his 2016/17 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East campaign off a superb start with a podium finish on his championship debut during the opening rounds of the season at the Bahrain International Circuit (18/19 November).

Racing in support of the prestigious FIA World Endurance Championship’s 6 Hours of Bahrain, the Porsche Carrera Cup GB star made an immediate impression within the Middle East paddock as he fought to a brilliant third place finish in his first race in the series.

After finishing two days of official pre-season testing in Bahrain just a few tenths of a second off the leading pace, Oliphant headed into the season opener confident of challenging for silverware during his first ever race meeting around the Sakhir circuit.

Oliphant’s podium chances were boosted by a promising showing across the two qualifying sessions on Friday, with some impressive lap times in his #15 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car earning him a pair of fifth place starts for the two races.

The opening encounter took place that evening under the floodlights, with a positive start seeing Oliphant maintain fifth position for the opening two tours before a slick move at the final corner on lap three moved him into fourth at the expense of Charlie Frijns.

That put Oliphant right on the tail of a fierce battle over second, with a great run out of turn three a couple of laps later allowing him to draw alongside them, with Oliphant superbly holding his nerve as they spectacularly ran three abreast into the next corner to emerge in second.

Although he slipped back to fourth by the end of the following lap, Oliphant remained a threat for the podium throughout and after keeping the pressure on his rivals for a number of laps, the Leamington Spa racer made a decisive move heading onto the final lap of the race.

Storming down the inside of Dennis Olsen coming across the start-finish line, the duo fought doorhandle-to-doorhandle for the first half of the lap in a thrilling duel, with Oliphant emerging in front to take a richly deserved third place finish.

After the excitement of that finish, it would prove to be a much more routine second race for Oliphant in the Saturday morning sunshine, with some front end grip issues hampering his attempts to fight to another podium finish as he ran in fifth position from start-to-finish.

The result completed a great points haul from the season opener, with Oliphant sitting fifth in the championship standings ahead of the next rounds of the championship at the Dubai Autodrome in three weeks’ time (9/10 December).

Tom Oliphant: “The first round of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge ME was a great experience, the track was amazing and the organisation was spectacular. After a few teething problems with the new car, we showed some good pace against drivers with more experience over here.

“To take a podium finish in the opening race was more than we had expected this early in the championship and the race was one of the best I’ve ever had. It looks like that should continue over the next few rounds as well.

“The second race was a disappointment after such a strong showing in race one, with an overall lack of grip I struggled to get much more from the car. Looking forward, I’m sure we will show strong pace at the on track I’ve had plenty of laps at, Dubai.”
Coverage of the qualifying sessions and both races from Bahrain can be watched back on the circuit’s official Youtube channel,  while all the results can be viewed here.

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