Oman Air Motorbase team-mates Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine celebrated their first race victory of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship season during round five at Snetterton 300 Circuit on Sunday, 16 June, to give a major boost to their 2013 title bid.
Coupled with an eighth place finish in the second of the weekend’s 60-minute races, round six, the duo has provisionally climbed into the championship top four, within just seven points of the series lead, with four rounds remaining.
Although originally finishing in a nonetheless excellent second position during the first of Sunday’s races, to secure the Oman Air Motorbase team’s first ever British GT podium, Ahmad and reigning champion Caine were elevated into first post-race when the rival Porsche of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen were given a 30 second time penalty for overtaking under yellow flags.
“It’s great for everyone at Oman Air Motorbase to have won for the first time in British GT”, said an elated Ahmad, “It was a great race for us, we qualified well and to come through from eighth on the grid to second place was fantastic. To then take the win is the icing on the cake.”
“Everyone back home in Oman, all my sponsors and supporters who’ve been with me each step of the way, they are the ones who deserve this win. The first few laps were very tough, I just had to stay out of trouble and keep pushing. The team did an amazing job in the pit-stop, Michael then did an incredible job in his stint as usual. It’s great for everyone who has supported this programme.”
Having qualified eighth fastest for round five, Ahmad took the opening stint at the wheel of the Oman Air, Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Oman Ministry of Tourism, Nawras, National Bank of Oman and Muscat Eye Laser Center-backed Porsche 997 GT3R and delivered a superb performance.
Climbing into fifth place on the opening lap, the 31-year-old remained right in the wheeltracks of the cars ahead but didn’t take any unnecessary risks as he sought to preserve the car and tyres. On lap seven, he saw his chance to slice past Steve Tandy’s BMW Z4 at the hairpin to take fourth and then proceeded to pressurise Minshaw’s Trackspeed Porsche.
Pitting from fourth place at the end of lap 14 to hand the Oman Air Motorbase car over to Caine, the team did an unbelievable job with the pit-stop to enable the British driver to venture back out into the race in the lead ahead of the Trackspeed car – now with Keen at the wheel.
Although slipping to second shortly after due to the performance differential between the two Porsches, Ahmad and Caine’s car running with 75kg of added ballast, managed to see off the challenge of the M-Sport Racing Audi to retain second – before ultimately taking the win.
In round six, Caine took the opening stint and handed the car over to Ahmad on lap 14 from 10th place. Rejoining the race in 17th position, the Omani driver worked his way through to eighth place at the finish to cap a fantastically competitive weekend.
There is now a long eight week break in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship calendar with round seven of the 2013 season taking place at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit on 10 & 11 August 2013. Before then, Ahmad will be back in action in the Blancpain Endurance Series for round three of its season, at Paul Ricard HTTT in the south of France, on 29 & 30 June.