Ahmad Al HarthyProtyre Formula Renault BARC Championship front-runner Ahmad Al Harthy produced the best performance of his single-seater racing career at Croft Circuit yesterday, Sunday, 12th July, with an excellent second place finish for Hathersage-based Hillspeed during round four of the campaign.

The Omani 27-year-old, at the wheel of his Sport Oman, Sultanate of Oman, Oman Air and Oman Tourist Board backed car, converted an excellent second-fastest qualifying performance into a very mature and controlled race drive to move into a clear runner-up spot in the championship standings.

Lapping with a best time of 1m21.959 seconds, Al Harthy was one of just three drivers – including race winner and championship leader Kieren Clark and Hillspeed team-mate James Theodore – to post laps under the 1m22 second mark.

“I controlled my race and managed to push really, really hard in the opening laps as I knew that was key to allow me to relax more later on”, said Al Harthy after round four, “The car felt good and I managed to do my job and get my highest ever position in BARC so I’m really pleased. It’s very motivating for me to get a result like this.

“The team did an amazing job set-up wise with the car, you need a complete package it’s not simply down to the driver. It’s been a good weekend for us on the whole and I’m really looking forward to Donington now where I hope we can be on the podium again.”

In round five Al Harthy backed up his earlier result with a fine fifth place and heading to Donington Park in Leicestershire a month from now for the next two rounds of the season, he has a 10 point cushion over third placed Josh Mulholland in the driver standings.

Liberty Properties-supported team-mate Theodore enjoyed a good top six result in the second of the weekend’s outings but was denied a potentially higher race finish in round four after contact off the grid involving Croatian driver Sasha Radola – the pair starting sixth and seventh respectively.

Pitching Theodore onto the grass on the inside and into a major spin, the incident meant he fell to the tail of the field and by the end of the opening lap he was some 20 seconds adrift of Al Harthy. Battling back superbly, and posting the second quickest race lap in the process, 17-year-old Theodore took a highly creditable ninth place result and is now up to seventh in the driver standings.

Ellis Harkins, meanwhile, produced two steady performances to achieve 14th and 16th place finishes in rounds four and five. The Philippine-born Irishman concluded the weekend’s action with a total of 34 points in the championship standings, just nine points shy of the coveted top 10.

Looking back on the weekend, Hillspeed team principal Richard Ollerenshaw said: “It was fantastic all ends up for us in race one. Ahmad did a superb job to finish second and while it was disappointing James was taken out at the start, his recovery and pace was exceptional. Ideally, it was one of those situations where you’d have wanted to see a Safety Car to bunch the pack up.

“In the second race neither James nor Ahmad made quite as good a start as they would have liked but their pace was good and it was an indication of how close the battle around them was in that nobody really gained or lost ground. Ellis had two solid drives again this weekend and scored points in both races which is always the aim.”

Donington Park’s National Circuit will be the venue for rounds six and seven of the 2009 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship a month from now over the weekend 8th/9th August. It is hoped Hillspeed’s fourth category runner, Alexander Jeffrey, will be back in action at Donington having been forced to sit-out the Croft races due to a hand injury sustained during round three.

The team will, however, be back on track a week earlier, 1st/2nd August, for the 13th and 14th rounds of the 2009 Michelin Formula Renault UK Championship at Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk.

Provisional 2009 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Driver Standings (after Rds4&5):
2nd Ahmad Al Harthy, 120pts; 7th James Theodore, 62pts; 16th Ellis Harkins, 34pts; 20th Alexander Jeffrey, 9pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.