Tom Oliphant says he has ‘loads of positives’ to take away from his weekend in the British Touring Car Championship at Rockingham, even though he missed out on a top ten finish.
A difficult qualifying session, hindered by a fuel surge issue in practice earlier in the day limiting track time, saw the Ciceley Motorsport driver struggle, ending up with his worst qualifying result of the season in 22nd on the grid for race one on his first visit to Rockingham since 2015.
From there, Oliphant was in the midst of battles in the pack and after receiving contact from a rival he finished race one down in 25th position after having to make a pit stop for repairs.
The 27-year-old made up eight places in race two to take the chequered flag in 17th position, narrowly avoiding disaster when he nursed hi scar home following a delaminated tyre three laps from the end.
Oliphant made rapid progress in race three, ending the first lap in tenth place. However on the unfavourable hard tyre, Oliphant struggled to maintain pace and finished in 13th, taking home three points for his weekend efforts.
“I’ll take a points finish after what was a very difficult weekend,” said Oliphant. “The time we lost in free practice really hampered us, and then to be taken out in the first race robbed us of any chance to come away with some serious results on race day.
“I knew this would be a tricky meeting as it my first time racing at the circuit since 2015 and my first time there in front-wheel drive machinery, and that was intensified by the time we unfortunately lost in free practice due to some technical issues.
“It meant I headed into qualifying a bit blind as I didn’t know exactly where the grip levels were, where to push in the braking zones etc, so it was no surprise to come away with a lower result than we wanted, which made our comeback on race day even more pleasing.”
Oliphant admits that he enjoyed racing in the pack on Sunday, even though that did make him more likely to be on the receiving end of contact which ultimately affected hischarge.
“Our pace in the first race was fantastic and I loved being in the thick of the action throughout, attacking and overtaking every lap. The car was an absolute dream to drive, so to have our charge ended in such abrupt fashion was infuriating.
“That left us towards the back of the grid for race two and that was our toughest race, with a drying circuit slightly catching us out with car set-up. We still had some strong pace though and I was able to make some progress up the field.
“We started in contention for the points in the final race and I had some great speed in the early stages, so I could make loads of overtakes and get up to ninth. Unfortunately, we struggled on the hard tyre from there and it was frustrating to slip back to thirteenth.”
Looking ahead to the next meeting at Knockhill, Oliphant believes his Mercedes-Benz A-Class can secure strong results in Scotland, with Adam Morgan and Aiden Moffat having taken podium finishes with the car at the circuit in 2015.
“We have loads of positives to take away from the weekend though and I’m excited to see what we can do at Knockhill.
“Everyone says the car is a strong package there and I’ve had some great pace in Scotland in the past, so I’m really looking forward to it!”