Team BMW’s Tom Oliphant says he is “over the moon” after scoring his first podium in the British Touring Car Championship in the opening contest at Donington Park.
Oliphant, who switched from Ciceley Motorsport to the WSR-run factory BMW operation for this year was glad to have tasted success with the outfit so early in the season.
Starting ninth for the opening encounter, Oliphant told TouringCars.Net his priority was making early progress in what turned out to be a frantic race.
“I got up to sixth off the line, my main focus was to try and get as many places and get ahead of [Tom] Ingram and the Hondas which I did,” said Oliphant.
“Sadly the safety car came out because I was right on the tail, then regrouped. But I didn’t get a great restart but then it all came together in front of me.
“I was in the right position as we want three-a-breast into the last corner and then we got up to fourth.”
Oliphant then benefitted from Sam Tordoff’s spin at the final chicane to jump to third, where he held station until the chequered flag, admitting he felt the nerves in the closing stages before securing his first series podium.
“I think in the process of Tordoff overtaking Cook he hit a barrier and broke his suspension so then he went off. That just gave me a gap to the leaders which I couldn’t catch and then a gap behind,” he explained.
“After that I did eight laps I was just cruising, and the last five laps I was a little bit nervous, staring at the first podium. I just backed it off to 80%, didn’t do anything stupid and just cruised to the end.
“So there’s some more pace in me I think, and now I’ve got that off my back I can push on.”
Oliphant admitted he knew he had the potential for great results this season, and hailed the new 3 Series as the “best car” he’s driven in his career.
He will now carry 42kg into the second race, but feels well-placed to secure a solid points haul.
“I’m over the moon. Going into this year, I knew I’d have the best team on the grid. The car was an unknown, but BMW and WSR have done an amazing job building it and it’s the best car I’ve driven,” Oliphant said.
“We’re still learning it and we’ve come a long way. If it wasn’t for race one and the tricky conditions at Brands I felt I could have got the podium there.
“But I’m glad I got it here. I’ve always got my first of something in my class at Donington, it’s one of my favourite tracks.
“Really pleased to get the podium – one race earlier than I was planning it – so race two it’ll be about getting a good start and trying to stay ahead of people with some weight in, but I think that’s possible.”
The second race of the day at Donington Park is scheduled to get underway at 14:35.