Tom Oliphant has said that he is “quietly confident” about his chances for the 2020 British Touring Car Championship, as he enters his second year with BMW.
Oliphant, who moved from Cicely Motorsport to Team BMW last year, finished 11th in the driver’s standings in 2019, achieving a best result of second place at Oulton Park, and announced in December that he would be staying with the team for 2020.
Team BMW had a tricky start to their 2019 campaign, after switching to the 3 series, and they started the year without any testing.
With no chance to understand the car before the season started, it took some time for all three of their drivers to get up to speed with the 3 series, although Oliphant’s team-mates, Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan, took the championship title to the wire, with Turkington coming out on top.
And, due to it being Oliphant’s first season with the team and car, the 29-year-old said that it took him slightly longer to get up to speed compared to his team-mates, but that he learned a lot from the experience, which will help him this year.
“Last year was really difficult, it was difficult for all three drivers,” Oliphant said to Last Lap.
“We all had a challenging time, so did the team, we had no testing before the start of the season, but AJ and Colin both have a lot of experience to sort of fall back on, and they had a lot of experience with the team, with the 1 series, so they kind of got to grips with it a lot quicker than I did.
“I had a lot of learning to do, so it made it more difficult, but ultimately, towards the end of the season, I started showing my pace and what I can do,
“Now that we’ve got a car throughout the whole winter, we can do a bit of testing and actually plan for a season and prepare properly, [and] I think we will be a lot stronger.”
As Oliphant was out of the title hunt, he played a developmental role for the team in the second half of the year, in order to help both BMW and his team-mates gain a better understanding of the car, and although it compromised his own championship, he felt his car is better for it.
“Because I was the one that wasn’t necessarily in the championship fight, mid-season my car tried a lot of different, interesting set-ups and changes,” added the Team BMW driver.
“I was running some unique set-ups at various different tracks that we ultimately learnt a lot from and I think all three of us, as a result, at the end of the season had a stronger car because of it, but it did mean that I was slightly compromised mid-season.
“I was happy to play the developmental role and being the good team-mate last year, but I think now I feel I know exactly what they want out of the car.
“I think the team have a much better understanding, obviously running it for a year, what the car is capable of and what the car needs to be like, and I think all of that combined, I think I’m quietly confident going into next year, I think it will be a very very strong year for me personally.”
Oliphant had a strong end to his 2019 season, finishing inside the top ten in four of the last six races, and with the improved form, and being with the same team for a second consecutive year, he has set himself the target to win races, and ultimately, challenge for the championship in 2020.
“Race wins, lots of podiums and to challenge for the title.” commented the 29-year-old when asked about his targets for next season.
“I think anybody that says they enter a race not to win is lying.
“I know there’s people in different circumstances, in different cars on the grid, and they might say top ten is like a win, but ultimately every single person enters in the hope that they win.
“I’m in a car that is capable of winning, so I want to win, but my main aim, to come Silverstone in September, is to be in the technical fight for the championship, [the] mathematical fight, and have my photo taken with the trophy and all that lot, and stand a chance coming in to the last round.
“The last round [in 2019] proved that as long as you are in a mathematical shout, it’s swings and roundabouts, it could be your year, so and that’s all I need really, I need to be in the mathematical fight.”