Team BMW’s Tom Oliphant admits he cannot believe he is a British Touring Car Championship race winner after securing a maiden victory at Brands Hatch.
Oliphant had endured a testing but solid day in the opening two races with seventh and eighth respectively at the iconic 2.4-mile GP layout, and would start sixth on the grid for the final encounter.
He capitalised on drama ahead to emerge third before making an opportunistic move for the lead around the outside of the battling Aiden Moffat and Stephen Jelly, making it three wide along the Brabham Straight before completing the move at Paddock Hill Bend.
Once in the lead, he fended off near-race-long pressure from a charging Ash Sutton who had progressed from tenth on the grid, but managed to hold on for his first series victory and West Surrey Racing’s 300th BTCC podium.
“I’m lost for words really, it was incredible,” he told ITV. My overtake was spectacular around the outside and then having Sutton behind me the whole race, I couldn’t have thought of a worse person to be following me to be quite fair.
“I just held on to the tyres, knew where I was strong, made sure I got the exits and hold on. Towards the end the car was mega. I can’t quite believe it, I’m over the moon.”
Oliphant admitted he was not on optimum tyres on the final race, but was overjoyed with his defensive drive to hold off Sutton, who he knew would be as keen as ever to take victory.
“We didn’t have the best of tyres in the last race, we used all our best ones in the first two so as soon as I got in the lead and I saw it was Sutton behind me I was up for a fight,” he said.
“But I think he suffered with his tyres behind me and maybe some overheating so I think that gave me a little bit of an advantage.
“I think that’s the first race where I haven’t made a mistake so I can’t believe it, true credit to the team. What an amazing day. I can’t believe I’m a BTCC race winner. Huge thanks to WSR because the BMW was fantastic.”
The Leamington Spa-based racer said his win was the “highlight of his racing career” to date, and noted the privilege of joining the list of legends on WSR’s roster of winning drivers.
“I don’t think I could have pushed any harder. I’ve won championships before, but this one is the highlight of my racing career and definitely the toughest,” he reflected.
“To be on the WSR winners list alongside drivers like Ayrton Senna and Mika Hakkinen is just a bit unreal, and to be the one to score their 300th BTCC podium is very special.”