Al Harthy Podium & Maiden Pole

Ahmad Al Harthy achieved his second podium of the year and first ever Formula Renault BARC pole position start at Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire, Sunday, 7th September – the Omani driver producing a superb performance for Derbyshire team Hillspeed.Al Harthy, who celebrated his 27th birthday last weekend, was in terrific form in qualifying at the 2.35-mile track with a career best effort securing pole for the 10th round of the championship with a time of 1m 14.511 seconds (113.82mph).In the race itself, Al Harthy battled well and was lucky to survive the distance at all after contact from Nathan Coulter to the rear of the No.4 Hillspeed car on lap four. Crushing the silencer on his exhaust, the net result was reduced straight-line speed which, at a power circuit like Thruxton, isn’t the sort of problem a driver needs.Even so, Al Harthy did an outstanding job to maintain his composure and pace, bringing his Hathersage based squad its sixth Formula Renault BARC podium of the year. His best lap of the race meanwhile, 1m 14.621 seconds, was just two 10ths of a second shy of the best of all.Speaking on Al Harthy’s performance, Hillspeed team principal Richard Ollerenshaw said: “Ahmad did a fantastic job, he had terrific pace from the off and to secure his first ever pole position in BARC Renault was a great result. He was probably slightly too conservative in the race early on which cost him the lead but third was still a great result.“When he was hit by (Nathan) Coulter just a few laps in, the damage to the silencer on the exhaust made a huge difference to his straight-line speed but he managed to gap the cars behind and maintain a top three place which was excellent. He did slip to fourth later on but overtook Kenny Andrews at the end to make sure of third place.”Qualifying became something of a lottery with the track drying towards the conclusion of the session but the main problem for Menasheh Idafar was the volume of traffic he found himself trapped amongst throughout the 20-minute session.Compromising his performance, the British-born Bahraini was only able to manage an uncharacteristic eighth fastest time but even so, he was just half a second away from pole position. Team-mate Michael Lyons, meanwhile, was just another half second adrift with the 11th quickest lap. In the race itself, Idafar made good early progress to climb into the top five but a spin when trying to make inroads on Al Harthy, the latter then in fourth position, dropped the 17-year-old back down the order, He did recover into seventh place though to claim four championship points which could be vital with just two rounds remaining this year.Essex racer Lyons did run as high as ninth early in the race after a good opening stint and looked on course to achieve his first top 10 points finish since the Oulton Park race back in May. Unfortunately for the Felsted based driver, contact with some of Thruxton’s notoriously unforgiving kerbs resulted in damage to the underside of his car.Taking that into account, Lyons did very well to bring his car home in 11th position just over a second shy of the points-paying places but a huge 11 seconds clear of his nearest challenger.Ollerenshaw added: “Menasheh has gone away quite happy all things considered as he did enjoy the race. Unfortunately in qualifying he was caught among traffic and couldn’t get the lap he needed but he had front row pace for sure. It was a shame his spin lost the positions he’d gained but at least he maintains fourth in the championship.“Mick dropped a place early on but quickly regained that and then moved into ninth which was good. Again, his pace was impressive and he should have had his fourth points result of the season. It was only the contact with the kerbs which compromised his chances. All in all, it wasn’t a bad race for the team as a whole but we deserved more.”There is now a four week break in the Formula Renault BARC Championship calendar ahead of the final two races of the 2008 season, rounds 11 and 12, which will be held at Silverstone National Circuit in Northamptonshire on 4th/5th October.Before then, Hillspeed will test at Oulton Park in Cheshire this coming Friday, 12th September, with a potential four-car line-up.Provisional 2008 Formula Renault BARC Championship Standings (after Rd10):4th Menasheh Idafar, 65pts; 5th Ahmad Al Harthy, 56pts; 14th Michael Lyons, 8pts