The Oman Racing Team celebrated a return to the top step at Snetterton this weekend, securing its 2nd race win of the season during rounds seven and eight of Avon Tyres British GT Championship (August 22/23).
A superb opening race performance for the Motorbase-run squad saw Rory Butcher and Liam Griffin claim their second race win of the season in the #6 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3. Unfortunately contact for the sister Vantage of Alex Al Harthy and Alex MacDowall denied the team a strong chance of a double podium during Sunday’s first hour long race.
An outstanding qualifying session for the first of Sunday’s two sprint races saw Al Harthy collect P2 on the grid – a mere 0.026s off pole – closely followed by Griffin in P3. A strong start for both Oman Racing Team cars looked set to be heading for 1-2 finish as both Griffin and then Al Harthy moved past Jarman to take the race lead.
Great work by the Motorbase crew in the pit stop at the halfway point saw MacDowall emerge with an impressive lead at the front of pack, before a clash with a GT4 back marker damaged the steering on the #2 Aston, causing it to drop down the order and eventually cross the line in 9th. Butcher picked up the race lead from his team-mate and drove an excellent stint to bring the #6 Vantage home in P1 for the squad’s second race win of the season.
Starting in P8 for race two Butcher made a great start on the opening lap, quickly moving up the pack in the opening lap before getting hit by Sims as the BMW tried to re-join the track, resulting in a double puncture for the #6 Vantage. After pitting Butcher managed to return, but being 3 laps down, the race was effectively over for him and Griffin.
MacDowall made steady progress during his opening stint in the wet before handing over to Al Harthy who re-joined the race in 12th. As the rain worsened Al Harthy produced a stunning drive in torrential conditions, posting lap times 5 times faster than the front runners and had quickly worked his way up into sixth where he looked strong for a podium challenge. As conditions deteriorated on track, race officials ended the race with 15 minutes remaining – resulting in a weekend-best 7th for the #2 Vantage.
Oman Racing Team Principal David Bartrum said; “A good weekend in one respect for Rory and Liam but it had the all makings of being a great weekend for whole team if things hadn’t have conspired against us. We went to Snetterton determined to get ourselves back into the contention for both the team and drivers championships and we’ve gone some way to achieving that but we’re not as high up as we would have liked to be going into the last round.
“The drivers all did a really good job this weekend in difficult conditions, Ahmad deserves a special mention as he keeps trying his heart out and nothing seems to be going his way;” added Bartrum. “Also, full credit to Alex stepping into the car this weekend without any form of testing. Between them they did a great job leading race 1 before being taken out of the lead.
“Rory and Liam have grown massively as a partnership and they’re working very hard together. We joke that they’re like an old married couple now; they seem to know what each other are thinking! That’s what you aim for in a GT pairing and I think they’re fast becoming a force to be reckoned with.
The Team Boss added; “Unfortunately with the on track incidents, the weekend was very costly for us both in points and monetary terms. From my perspective watching on the TV, there was more damage in the British GT than the BTCC this weekend and that’s not a good thing. It’s definitely becoming more prevalent and its costing teams an awful lot of money; the Championship needs to get on top of it, and quickly.”
The weekend’s results see the Oman Racing Team close the gap to just 11 points behind the Teams’ Championship leaders with Butcher and Griffin now just 20 points off the overall lead. Despite a difficult weekend, Al Harthy maintains his lead in the Silver Cup standings and the Oman Racing Team heads to final two hour race of the season in strong contention for three titles at Donington Park on September 12/13.
Rory Butcher: “It was great to get the win in race one and bag maximum points. The championship leaders had a bit of a bad weekend so we’ve gained 20 points on them and we’re back on challenging for the championship now going into the final round.“It was a real shame that we missed out on scoring again in race 2, especially as it was completely out of our hands, but we’re back in the game. That was the main goal for the weekend, to arrive at Donington with a shot at the title so we’ve happy to have managed that.”Ahmad Al Harthy: “That was a win there for us in race one. My pace was strong, Alex was too, and we had quite a good start. I maintained third for a while and then had a chance to make a pass for second which worked out well. We knew we had a good pit-stop turnaround time, so we didn’t go with the rest and decided to pit one lap later.“I put a really hard lap in to try and give us the best chance, after the stop when Alex came out in the car we had the lead and it was looking very good. The car was good, everything was good, and then a GT4 car just lost control and hit Alex – there was nothing he could do. He managed to get the car home, so we got some points, but we’re here to win and today we had a great chance to do that.”MotorsTV will feature highlight from both races from 10.05pm tomorrow, Wednesday 26th August with Channel 4 set to broadcast its highlight programme at 7am on Sunday 30th August. A full TV schedule can be found on the official British GT Championship website here. MotorsTV can be found on the following channels: Sky 447, Virgin 545 and Freeview 71 & 240.