Porsche racer Ahmad Al Harthy and Oman Air Motorbase team-mate Michael Caine continued their unbroken run of points finishes during round four of the 2013 Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Silverstone on Sunday, 26th May, with ninth place in a very action-packed three-hour encounter.
In a race affected by multiple Safety Car periods, and plenty of contact, the duo stayed out of trouble for the duration and only a late time penalty – a result of a problem at the final pit-stop – prevented a potential top six finish on the 3.66-mile Grand Prix Circuit.
“It was a race full of excitement”, said Ahmad, “Due to so many Safety Car periods, people running very different strategies, it was a tough race. We want results, we believe our pace deserves results, but today was unfortunately a day where some things out of our control got in the way. The time penalty near the end was crucial in costing us a few positions but, overall, it was a good weekend.”
Supported by a huge number of guests, including dignitaries from the Sultanate, the Oman Air, Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Oman Ministry of Tourism, Nawras, National Bank of Oman and Muscat Eye Laser Centre-backed driver took the first stint of the race starting 17th on the grid.
Only five laps in though, a three-car collision in the midfield, which Ahmad did well to avoid, led to the appearance of the Safety Car. Remaining on track for a handful of laps as some others opted to take the first of their mandatory pit-stops, the Omani pitted on lap eight from ninth position to hand the car over to Caine for the first time.
When racing resumed Caine was down in 33rd position but by the time he pitted for the second driver change on lap 22, part way through a second Safety Car period, he had climbed into fourth with two hours still remaining.
In 20th position when racing got back underway, Ahmad produced an excellent stint to bring the Oman Air Motorbase car back into contention. Working his way through to seventh before handing the car back to Caine for the final hour, the 31-year-old was pleased with his performance.
Caine re-entered the race in 17th position and scythed through into the top six with just 15 minutes remaining on the clock. Unfortunately though, the British driver had mistakenly been let back out from the final stop a few seconds early and so had to pit again for a drive-through penalty. Proving costly, he rejoined in ninth and got to within just 0.2 seconds of eighth place at the finish on lap 77.
“In a three hour race, first of all you have to be happy to just finish”, added Ahmad, “We did that, we scored points so we have to take that forward now and stay positive. I’m really looking forward to the next round of British GT but before then I have Blancpain [Endurance Series] here at Silverstone next weekend, the racing this weekend will help me for that.
“I’d like to thank everyone who came to support me this weekend, it was one of the largest groups of support we’ve had this season. I was honoured to have H.E. Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Hinai, our Ambassador here in the UK, come along with a lot of our other partners, the Ministry of Tourism representatives, so I’m glad it was an entertaining race for them which they really enjoyed.”
Outlining the importance of Ahmad’s racing programme to Oman, Khalid Al Zadjali, director of tourism events for the Oman Ministry of Tourism, commented: “Ahmad is a great ambassador for Oman, we’re really proud to have him doing so well in this unique sport. He helps us promote Oman, to promote Oman as a brand and to explain what our country has to offer.
“For tourism in Oman, the UK is one of our main markets so Ahmad racing in the UK in a high profile championship like British GT is very important for us. It really increases the awareness of Oman and we believe it is a very strong way to promote our country. His success in motorsport really adds value for us and we’re delighted to have been here supporting him this weekend at Silverstone.”
Snetterton 300 Circuit in East Anglia will host rounds five and six of the 2013 Avon Tyres British GT Championship three weeks from now on 15th/16th June. Before then, Ahmad will be back in action at Silverstone next weekend, 1st/2nd June, for the second round of the Blancpain Endurance Series with the ARC Bratislava-NBO Racing Team.
Provisional 2013 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Standings (after Rd4)
=9th Ahmad Al Harthy/Michael Caine, 29pts