The two teams battling for the championship should head towards Redgate side-by-side to start the final race of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship thanks to a breath taking lap by Ahmad Al Harthy helped give he and Michael Caine pole position.
“Who would have thought,” enthused Al Harthy after the session. “First and Second going in to tomorrow’s race!”
The scale of the challenge that faced Al Harthy when he climbed aboard the #4 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage was to make up a six tenths of a second deficit on the Beechdean AMR car of Andrew Howard after his teammate Jonny Adam had set the best lap in the first part of the session.
The task at first appeared to much, his initial laps failing to keep the car in the top ten overall as title rival Marco Attard lifted the Ecurie Ecosse BMW onto pole, the total of he and his and co-driver Alexander Sims laps adding up to 2:59.991. Attard improved upon his own time, hauling the best cumulative time down to 2:59.021 as Al Harthy hit his stride, moving up into second – his personal lap a 1:30.132, the new cumulative time 2:59.436.
The Omani driver was quick to praise his teammate; “It was very good session for Michael as well,” he told theCheckeredFlag.co.uk, “that’s what really helped us with the combined qualifying. The grid is so close and I was really delighted again to be showing my true pace in qualifying. We keep pushing forward in practice and this is what it’s all about in the Oman Racing Team and Motorbase to keep pushing each other, all the drivers working together. The team overall did a great job. They kept me posted the whole time.”
Another of the faster ‘gentlemen’ drivers able to make ground in the second half of the session Gary Eastwood briefly had the FF Corse Ferrari third fastest, though he would lose ground late in the session as others improved. Al Harthy was among the improvements, taking four tenths off his own best time to leapfrog the Attard and Sims entry into pole position by the slenderest of margins – three thousandths of a second. Al Harthy’s lap (1:29.714) was the best of the less experienced drivers by more than two tenths over Attard and just a second slower than Adam’s first half lap.
Attard and Sims need only finish sixth in the race for Attard to take the title, while Caine and Al Harthy must win to stand any chance of snatching the crown away.
With Al Harthy and Attard starting their respective charges the two men outlined their – surprisingly similar – plans for the race. The pole sitter explained that a clean race without a safety car would be “ideal” but recognised the unpredictability of the series. “You know British GT – anything can happen,” he said. “We need to keep focused and take one step at a time – the first step is clearing the first lap and then keep hold of the lead and keep pushing.”
Attard meanwhile was eschewing his ability to settle for a top ten spot. “We have to keep it clean, keep out of trouble and chase them down,” he said. “We still want to beat them tomorrow, we don’t want them to win that race. It’s not going to be easy.”
Deposed from the pole position that Adam’s 1:28.691 saw him inherit Howard recovered the Beechdean AMR Aston back up to third, though a grid penalty issued after the contact between Howard and Derek Johnston at Brands will leave the outgoing champion starting from sixth, coincidentally alongside the #888 BMW his Kent victim shares with Joe Osborne.
Howard’s penalty also benefits the #5 Oman Racing Team Aston, the car of Liam Griffin and Rory Butcher due to start third, the pair of Motorbase Performance run cars surrounding the lone Ecurie Ecosse Beamer on the grid.
United Autosports’ Audi, shared between Matt Bell and Mark Patterson will start from fourth.
Gary Eastwood’s best lap eventually earned seventh fastest for he and teammate Ollie Hancock. Trackspeed’s pair of Porsches will start eighth and ninth, Phil Keen and Jon Minshaw’s #63 ahead of the #31 of Nick Tandy and team patriarch David Ashburn. The Strata 21 Aston of Paul White and Tom Onslow-Cole will start from tenth.
Oz Yusef protected the provisional pole position spot taken by ISSY Racing co-driver Gavan Kershaw. His 1:36.906 was two tenths quicker than that of Dan Cammish. However, as Barrie Baxter failed to match his teammate in the Team Parker Racing Porsche Yusef was allowed to escape to pole as class points leaders Jake Giddings and Ross Wylie second ahead of the TF Sport entry of their lone title rivals.
The two hour race is scheduled to start at 12:55pm. www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will have live text coverage of the full two hour race.