Avon Tyres British GT Championship front-runner Ahmad Al Harthy will go into the final race of the 2014 season a fortnight from now still in contention for the coveted title, after securing an excellent second place finish in round nine at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit on Sunday, 31st August.
Partnered by regular team-mate Michael Caine, the pairing secured their fourth podium of the year with their Aston Martin and, in doing so, climbed into third place in the driver standings while also helping the Oman Racing Team take the lead in the team championship.
Having produced a superb performance in qualifying to capture third on the grid for the weekend’s two-hour race, 32-year-old Ahmad stormed into the lead on the opening lap and was never headed throughout his stint in the Oman Air, Oman Ministry of Tourism, Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Nawras, National Bank of Oman and Al Hashar Group/Aston Martin Oman-backed car.
Opening up an advantage of over seven seconds after 20 laps, the Muscat racer’s hard work was then undone a few laps later when the Safety Car was deployed. Eradicating his hard-earned lead, Ahmad had it all to do again at the re-start but before he had chance to get into a rhythm the Safety Car was required once more.
Leading away at the second re-start, Ahmad remained on track at the front of the field until pitting to hand the No.4 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 over to Caine at the midway point. When all of the driver change pit-stops had been completed, the British racer was in second position and he stayed there until roughly 20 minutes from the end when passed by Nick Tandy.
Then, 10 laps later, Caine moved back into second at the expense of erstwhile leader Phil Keen and just managed to see off the sister Oman Racing Team Aston Martin of Rory Butcher by a mere 0.1 seconds on the run to the line as the chequered flag flew after two hours of great racing.
“It’s a really good result and although there’s still a big points gap in the championship, we’ll keep pushing to the end as we always do”, said Ahmad, “I was very happy with my stint, I was P1 the whole time and it’s a shame the Safety Car came out as it reduced the lead we had built up. When the pit-window opened, we pitted from the lead and Michael then did a great job.
“Finishing in second place is fantastic for everyone in the team and with Rory [Butcher] and Jeff [Smith] third, it’s an amazing result for the Oman Racing Team. The driver title is still alive, but it will be very tough to try and achieve. We’ll take everything as it comes at Donington in a couple of weeks and just do the very best we possibly can.”
Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit in the East Midlands will host the final round of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship, another two-hour contest, on Sunday, 14th September.
Provisional 2014 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Driver Standings (after Rd9):
1st Marco Attard (BMW), 148.5pts; 2nd Alexander Sims (BMW), 129.5pts; 3rd Ahmad Al Harthy & Michael Caine (Aston Martin), 120pts
Provisional 2014 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Team Standings (after Rd9):
1st Oman Racing Team (Aston Martin), 160.5pts; 2nd Ecurie Ecosse (BMW), 148.5pts; 3rd Trackspeed (Porsche), 133.5pts
Source. Marc Orme/Photos. Jack Mitchell/John Patterson