Oman Racing Team driver Ahmad Al Harthy departed Snetterton 300 Circuit on Sunday, 23rd August, bitterly disappointed after an almost guaranteed victory in round seven of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship went begging as a result of contact from a backmarker midway through the race.
Having qualified on the front row for the first of the weekend’s two 60-minute contests, just missing out on pole position by a mere 0.026 seconds, the 33-year-old Aston Martin Middle East and North Africa ambassador had justifiably high hopes of a podium return at the very least.
Taking the opening stint of race one, Ahmad held third position into the first corner and maintained the placing over the course of the first third of the race close behind the lead pair. At the end of lap 12, the Omani seized his chance on the brakes into Murrays to take second and when the pit-stop window opened shortly after, with 25 minutes having elapsed, he went on to inherit the lead.
Remaining on track a lap longer than the two lead Astons, Ahmad pumped in an impressively committed and quick lap in his Oman Air, Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Ooredoo, National Bank of Oman and Al Hashar Group liveried car to give new team-mate Alex MacDowall the best possible chance of emerging from their driver-change stop still ahead.
After great work by the team in the pits, MacDowall joined the track in the effective lead – with one car ahead still to serve its stop – and when all of the pit visits had been completed, the Briton held an advantage of around two seconds in the No.2 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3.
Despite close attention from the pursuing McLaren of Andrew Watson, MacDowall remained in the lead untroubled but on lap 21 the race took an incredibly dramatic turn for the worse when the Oman Racing Team entry was hit by an errant GT4 backmarker as MacDowall lapped the car.
Resulting in a significant loss of time and damage to the steering and tracking, MacDowall did manage to coax the Aston to the finish in ninth place but the result was far from what the team deserved after such a strong performance.
“That was a win there for us”, said a thoroughly disappointed Ahmad, “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.”
From the warmth and dry conditions of race one, round eight later in the day took place in the wet and from 12th on the grid the Oman Racing Team duo aimed to hit back strongly. MacDowall took the first stint and worked his way into ninth place prior to the driver-change at the halfway point.
When Ahmad got behind the wheel, he rejoined in 12th position but made excellent progress as the rain worsened at the Norfolk track. With a quarter of an hour to run he held seventh position but, a few moments later, race officials opted to bring the contest to an early conclusion as a result of the amount of standing water on the track – seventh marking the duo’s best result of the weekend.
There is now a three week break in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship calendar with the final race of the season, round nine, set to take place at Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit on Sunday, 13th September.
Snetterton 300 Circuit, Rd7 Results: 1st Oman Racing Team – Liam Griffin/Rory Butcher – Aston Martin 2nd TF Sport – Andrew Jarman/Jody Fannin – Aston Martin 3rd TF Sport – Derek Johnston/Matt Bell – Aston Martin
Snetterton 300 Circuit, Rd8 Results: 1st Beechdean AMR – Andrew Howard/ Jonny Adam – Aston Martin 2nd Team Russia by Barwell Racing – Jon Minshaw/Phil Keen – BMW Z4 3rd 22GT Racing – Mark Farmer/Jon Barnes – Aston Martin
Provisional 2015 Avon Tyres British GT Championship GT3 Driver Standings: 7th Ahmad Al Harthy, 54pts
Provisional 2015 Avon Tyres British GT Championship GT3 Silver Cup: 1st Ahmad Al Harthy, 103pts
Provisional 2015 Avon Tyres British GT Championship GT3 Team Standings: 2nd Oman Racing Team, 189.5pts