Early Call Allows Oman Racing Pair Dominant Silverstone Win


Avon Tyres British GT Championship (Credit: Will Belcher Photography)

The Oman Racing Team driver pairing of Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine dominated their way to a second win of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship season, a swift strategy call by the Motorbase Performance run team leading to a victory with nearly a minute in hand.

Oddly for the Silverstone 500 event, the three hour race around the Grand Prix track the longest of the GT season, the moves that ultimately decided the race came inside of the first half hour of the race.

Al Harthy, starting the race along with the rest of the less experienced halves of the driving combinations, made quick work of both Phil Dryburgh and Marco Attard on the opening lap to move up from fourth to second behind Beechdean AMR’s Andrew Howard. From pole, Howard had moved into a clear lead through the opening corners, aided by a bobble from Attard at turn one.

The reigning British GT champion looked to be comfortable in at the head of the race, but his role as pathfinder necessitated being the first man upon the slower GT4 cars. He caught the BMW M3 of Alain Schlesinger through Becketts and Chapel and moved to put a lap on the Frenchman coming onto the Hanger Straight. However, Schlesinger pinched Howard onto the grass allowing Al Harthy to sweep by into the lead.

Howard kept close to the Omani racer, the Astons split by only around a second when a third Aston played its role in the lead battle.

Paul Bailey tried to slip the HorsePower Racing Vantage GT3 past the GT4 Lotus Evora at Brooklands while Oz Yusef was moving to the apex. The pair made contact, tipping the Lotus into a spin before momentum and physics brought them back together, the secondary contact all by tearing the left-rear corner of the Aston off, leaving it stranded on the concrete run-off and triggering a safety car period.

As soon as – or even marginally before – the boards and flags came out Al Harthy was in the pits from the lead while Howard and Attard stayed out, leading the safety car train at reduced speed. That lap proved costly as after both made their own pit visits the following tour, handing over to Jonny Adam and Alexander Sims respectively they emerged more than a minute behind the turquoise and white machine.

Michael Caine did not immediately pick up the lead. Instead he took the restart in third place behind Trackspeed Porsche of Jody Firth and Lee Mowle’s Triple Eight Race Engineering BMW Z4 GT3.

The safety car had allowed Mowle to catch the field after having to make an unplanned stop at the end of the opening lap after being forced into the grass in the squabble that broke out in the wake of Attard’s slide at Copse. The BMW man was always playing catch up and even once Firth ended his stint in favour of Warren Hughes Mowle stayed out, extending his stint well into the race’s second hour, only pitting once faster drivers on fresher tyres started to demote the BMW down the order.

Between them Osborne and Mowle were the lone thorn in the side of Al Harthy and Caine, often dicing for the race lead, though being a pit stop behind in terms of strategy.

The pair finally bowed out of the front of the race once Mowle was called to serve a drive through penalty for Osborne’s speeding through a yellow flag zone. The penalty and their final driver change stop dropped the car out of the top ten. Osborne did seem to have clawed back the final points on offer for the race only to spin on the final lap, allowing Tom Onslow-Cole to take tenth in the Strata21 Aston Martin.

Meanwhile Caine and Al Harthy eased to victory. With a strategy more or less in common with chief rivals Beechdean and Ecurie Ecosse and without a further safety car to close up the gap they took victory by nearly a minute.

Ecurie Ecosse had been second of those on the conventional strategy for much of the race, but a longer final stop – courtesy of their runner-up finish at Rockingham dropped them back to third with Sims falling back towards Steven Kane, mounting another final stint charge in the M-Sport Bentley.

On the penultimate lap Kane lined up a move to pass Sims at Stowe but the BMW man shut the door, the BMW spinning around off the nose of the Bentley, dropping down to fourth. However, after the race Kane was deemed to blame for the contact with 30 seconds added to his and co-driver Rembert Berg’s race time dropping them back behind the BMW in the final results.

The points for third were enough for Sims and Attard to keep the championship lead over the Beechdean team with Al Harthy and Caine in third but just 4.5 points behind the series leaders.

British GT debutant Alessandro Pier Guidi and Pasin Lathouras finished fifth for AF Corse. The #888 BMW and Nissan GT Academy Team RJN team finished fifth, sixth and seventh after quiet but consistent runs through the race.

MP Motorsport’s Richard Abra and Mark Poole made an alternative strategy led off by Poole’s 17 minute opening stint work to come home in eighth ahead of the second Oman Racing Team Aston of Rory Butcher and Liam Griffin and the Strata21 pairing.

Trackspeed’s Firth and Hughes, whose Porsche had led the way in the opening hour, finished 12th.

Bradley Ellis and Adrian Barwick won in GT4, a lap clear of Optimum Motorsport pairing Ryan Ratcliffe and Matt Draper.

The way to the top two was cleared after a mid-race clash between Andrew Jarman and Rick Parfitt Jr. while they were fighting over the class lead. Contact through the Becketts and Chapel complex sent both Jarman’s TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT4 and Parfitt’s Century Motorsport Ginetta spinning with Ratcliffe and Optimum the immediate beneficiaries. They in turn would have to give up the class lead to to complete a final driver change, allowing former series champion Ellis and Barwick to take their first GT4 victory.

In the closing minutes the fight for the final podium spot was the field for another skirmish between TF Sport and Century drivers, though with Devon Modell and Tom Oliphant now aboard the Aston and Ginetta respectively. Oliphant was harrying Modell until a fire under the rear of the #42 drew the black flag, Oliphant having to pull out of the race.

Both APO Sport – making their first start in the 2014 season – and Rockingham winners Academy Motorsport were early retirements, the latter forced out of the race by a failed oil pump. FF Corse, overall winners at Rockingham, also failed to make the finish, Rob Barff flung off the track after contact with Schlesinger’s errant GT4 BMW shortly after the safety car period.