The Oman Racing Team achieved a double podium finish at last weekend’s British GT meeting at Spa, with both the #4 and #5 Aston Martin Vantage’s finishing on the podium in race one.
Race one saw the Spa circuit hanged in mist, with the track damp in places. Despite this, however, a number of teams decided to change to slick tyres after the formation lap, with both the Motorbase Performance-ran cars starting on slicks from the start.
From the start Ahmad Al Harthy led, with the Omani handing over to Michael Caine at the stop, although the Aston, running with an extra 90kg of weight, was unable to defend from the #63 Trackspeed Porsche of Phil Keen, who went on to win by 1.3 seconds. For the #5 Aston things went more smoothly, with the car of Rory Butcher and Jeff Smith moving up one place to P3 overall.
Race two saw the worse possible start for the #4, with an early crash with a Ferrari looking to ruin the Omani/English challenge. However, a quick stop for repairs, clever use of safety car periods and a fighting recovery driver saw the duo finish in tenth.
The #5’s race was also compromised, with the duo, who were on course to finish in the top 6, being held up by another car in the pits, costing them 14 seconds and seven places, with the duo eventually finishing three places behind the #4 in 13th.
“Race one was great,” said Al Harthy. “Unfortunately, with the extra weight we had to carry, the Porsche was quicker in sector one and it was always going to happen that we’d end up P2. Second place, though, was a great result and I was really happy with my driving.
“After pitting for the new tyre in race two, we were practically dead last but the first Safety Car came to our help. Then, it was a matter of Michael passing the GT4 cars and trying to get among the GT3s. When I took over the car, I gave it absolutely everything. On the last lap we passed four cars and to get into the points again like that was fantastic. The team was delighted to have a podium and to have scored in both races. I’m really happy – huge thanks to the team.”
Butcher, who started on slick tyres in race one in the damp, said: “It was a tough call by the team to go with slicks for the first race and we were one of the only teams to make the call. But it worked out for the best and that was my first overall podium in British GT.
“The second race was always going to be tough from P14 but I got up to P9 and then we had some really bad luck in the pits. It was really frustrating as Jeff had excellent pace and I’m sure we’d have got into the top six.”
Summing up the weekend, team principle David Bartrum said: “Michael took damage to the car from contact with the Ferrari in the second race. The opening laps resulted in billowing smoke off the left rear corner and concern about a possible puncture. He pitted and we changed the left rear wheel after checking for damage. We didn’t lose a lap and lucked in to the safety car coming out, which enabled Michael to join the back of the queue. When it went green, we went back through the field and up to the GT3 cars. Then the pit window opened just as the safety car appeared for the second time and after a flawless change, Ahmad rejoined in 17th place. The safety car was out for a long time and the race finally re-started with 10 minutes to go. Ahmad then sent about re-taking places and fought through to tenth.
“Overall, it was a great weekend for the team and our first double podium. The drivers did a great job and everyone in the team worked really well. It’s a real shame that Rory and Jeff didn’t get the result they deserved in the second race.”