Avon Tyres British GT Championship racer Ahmad Al Harthy and Oman Air Motorbase team-mate Michael Caine came through a problem-filled third round of the 2013 season at Rockingham on Monday, 6th May, with a strong sixth place finish on a day of incredibly high drama.
Despite a somewhat harsh drive-through penalty early on, which dropped Ahmad to the tail of the field, and a bitterly disappointing puncture during the final 15 minutes, when Caine was running in the top five, the pairing managed to salvage a top points finish to provisionally end the weekend equal sixth in the standings.
“It was certainly a race full of drama”, reflected Ahmad, “We said all along we knew we had good race pace. Without all of the problems, the incident on lap one and then the puncture, we’d have been right up there near the front. The Oman Air Motorbase guys did a great job with the car again this weekend, to finish as high as we did after everything we had to go through was very positive.”
Beginning the first of the year’s two-hour races from 15th on the grid, 31-year-old Ahmad took the first 60-minute stint and after making a good getaway things looked promising from the off – until contact at the third corner pitched the Omani off the circuit and onto the grass.
As his spinning Porsche came back onto the circuit, race officials decided to penalise the Omani for ‘joining the track in a dangerous manner’ and so the subsequent drive-through penalty, which he served straight away, dropped him to the tail of the 30-car field.
Mounting an impressive and very determined recovery, the Oman Air, Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Oman Ministry of Tourism, Nawras, National Bank of Oman and Muscat Eye Laser Centre-sponsored racer fought his way superbly back into the middle order and as the pit-stops started he was as high as seventh before handing the car over to Caine.
The reigning British GT Champion rejoined the race after the pit-stop in 15th place but reeled off some impressive laps as he fought his way into the points-paying positions. Battling through into fifth with just 15 minutes remaining in the clock, Caine’s outstanding drive was dealt a huge blow when the Porsche sustained a puncture.
Pitting for fresh rubber, the Oman Air Motorbase car ventured back out onto the track in ninth place and Caine was able to climb into seventh on the penultimate lap. Post-race though, one of the Aston Martins was penalised for an indiscretion and so Ahmad and Caine were elevated into the top six.
“We had a very good start to the race but then, at turn three, I was hit by one of the [BMW] Z4s and got spun out onto the grass”, explained Ahmad, “My car came back onto the circuit but then I was given a drive-through penalty which I thought was harsh.
“So, after that, we were dead last and with a lot of work to do so I just pushed as hard as I could. I think I was into somewhere around P16 when everything had balanced out properly, we had strong race pace and it was all looking good.”
He added: “After handing over to Michael, he did a fantastic job and got us high up into the points but with about 15 minutes to go we had the puncture. Honestly, without the problems we had, I think we could have challenged for the podium.”
There is now a three week break in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship calendar with the fourth round of the year, a three-hour spectacular, taking place on Sunday, 26th May, at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in Northamptonshire.
Provisional 2013 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Standings (after Rd3):
=6th Ahmad Al Harthy/Michael Caine & Jason Minshaw, 26pts