Tom Oliphant got his 2016/17 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East campaign off toa superb start with a podium finish on his championship debut at the Bahrain International Circuit.
Racing in support of the FIA World Endurance Championship’s 6 Hours of Bahrain, the Porsche Carrera Cup GB star made an immediate impression as he fought to a brilliant third place in his first race in the series.
The Leamington driver’s podium chances were boosted by a promising showing across the two qualifying sessions, with some impressive lap times in his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car earning him a pair of fifth-place starts.
The opening encounter took place under the floodlights on Friday evening with a positive start seeing Oliphant maintain fifth position for the opening two tours before a slick move at the final corner of 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 before 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, he remained a threat for the podium throughout and after keeping the pressure on his rivals for a number of laps, he made a decisive move heading on to 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.
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 front-end grip issues seeing him run in fifth position from start to finish.
The result completed an encouraging points haul, with Oliphant sitting fifth in the championship standings ahead of the next rounds of the championship at the Dubai Autodrome on December 9 and 10.
“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,” said Oliphant. “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 one track I’ve had plenty of laps at, Dubai.”