Middle Eastern racing driver Ahmad Al Harthy produced a star performance during round seven of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit on Sunday, 11th August, to help the Oman Air Motorbase team claim a seventh place points finish – from 20th on the grid.
With a literal mountain to climb in the two-hour race after a very challenging qualifying session, in which the squad’s Porsche 997 GT3R struggled for outright pace due to the weight penalty it has to carry, 31-year-old Ahmad and team-mate Michael Caine did a remarkable job to not only maintain their unbroken run of points finishes, but also end the weekend fifth in the standings.
Confident of being able to deliver more speed and performance in race conditions, Ahmad took the opening stint and the Omani made excellent early progress to slice his way through from 20th place into the top 15 by lap 10.
Posting impressive and highly consistent lap times, the Oman Air, Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Oman Ministry of Tourism, Nawras, National Bank of Oman and Muscat Eye Laser Center-supported driver continued his ascent through the order and moved into the top 10 by lap 19.
Working his way into a heady fourth position as the mandatory pit-stops started to be served with around 50 minutes of the race having elapsed, Ahmad then made his pit visit on lap 35 of the race to hand over the car to reigning British GT Champion Caine.
Just prior to making his scheduled pit-stop, Ahmad was alerted to a small fire at the left-rear of the Porsche – a result, it transpired, of damage caused from early-race contact at Druids – so the team fortunately managed to deal with the situation at the regulation stop without any additional delay.
After the driver-change, Caine threaded back into the upper order in seventh place and did manage to move back into the top five after all of the pit-stops had taken place. Battling lighter cars, though, Caine’s task proved thankless as the weight burden, applied to the Oman Air Motorbase car due to the relative experience of the team-mates, hampered further progress.
Ultimately ending the race in seventh position, the result was still a very impressive one from the 10th row of the grid and highly important in terms of the championship battle with three rounds still remaining in the 2013 season.
“The race was certainly a lot better than qualifying”, said Ahmad, “It was a very challenging race, I couldn’t take any risks and our strategy was to overtake as much as possible without making any contact. I put my head down, reeled them in one by one and I think we had fastest lap at one point.
“Luckily, we didn’t lose any time with the small fire as it came about close to my pit window. The team did a great job in the pit-stop but then Michael had a very difficult job in his stint, the weight in the car combined with the drivers he was up against made it very tough. To finish P7 is a great result from where we started though.”
He added: “We were very consistent and it was so important to have a strong race, there were so many people from Oman – sponsors, family and friends – at Brands Hatch so to score points was the main aim. After qualifying it was all about damage limitation so, overall, I’m delighted.”
Rounds eight and nine of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship will take place at Zandvoort in The Netherlands over the weekend 7th/8th September.
Provisional 2013 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Standings (after Rd7)
=5th Ahmad Al Harthy/Michael Caine, 70pts
Provisional 2013 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Team Standings (after Rd7)
6th Oman Air Motorbase, 73pts