Two consistent top four results in rounds eight and nine of the 2009 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship lifted Hillspeed’s Ahmad Al Harthy back into the top three in the driver standings at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit yesterday, Sunday, 23rd August.

Producing top three pace throughout the course of the weekend at the 1.2-mile Kent venue, the Omani 27-year-old challenged hard for the rostrum in both encounters and came closest to securing his fourth podium of the year in round nine by finishing just 0.488 seconds shy of third place.

Team-mate James Theodore equaled his best result of the season with a fine top six finish in the second of the weekend’s races, although the Telford-based 17-year-old was disappointed with the opening encounter when a tricky start dropped him down to 10th position and an eventual finish of ninth. Nonetheless, his 30-point haul from the weekend maintains seventh position in the title race.

“Ahmad is only three points behind Dino (Zamparelli) in the race for the Vice-Champion’s position in the championship but the drop-score situation is less favourable for us so we know we need to score heavily during the final two events of the year at Rockingham and Thruxton”, commented Hillspeed team principal Richard Ollerenshaw.

“James is still in the fight for the championship top six, which would be a good finish in his first full season, and he’s definitely proven he has the pace to run at the front once again this weekend. It’s a shame qualifying didn’t go a little better for him because, as has been proven again, at Brands Indy where you start is more often than not where you finish due to the overtaking limitations.”

In round eight qualifying on Saturday, 22nd August, Al Harthy was the fastest of the Hillspeed duo with the third quickest time of 46.213 seconds (93.37mph) while Theodore posted the seventh best lap of 46.485 seconds (92.82mph).

At the start of the opening race, Al Harthy and Theodore both struggled to get away from the grid as cleanly as they wanted although the former did manage to hold on to third place through Paddock Hill Bend at the wheel of his Sport Oman, Sultanate of Oman, Oman Air and Oman Tourist Board backed Formula Renault.

Running in third place and pressuring Joe Crook for second early on, Al Harthy slipped to fourth position on lap nine behind Dino Zamparelli at Druids Hairpin. Looking to hit back quickly, the Hillspeed racer lost some ground as the front-runners passed backmarkers and he therefore remained in fourth to the chequered flag on lap 25.

Liberty Properties-backed Theodore pressured David Sutton over the course of the first three laps and on the fourth tour he made the breakthrough with a pass for ninth on the run to Druids. Tight to the rear-wing of Brett Parris’ car for almost the entire duration, Theodore had to settle for ninth position even though he had top six pace.

For round nine, Al Harthy started in fifth having posted a time of 46.583 seconds (92.63mph) with Theodore seventh again thanks to a time of 46.816 seconds (92.17mph). This time, both drivers got away quite well with Al Harthy moving up into the top four along Cooper Straight as Theodore held seventh position.

For the entire 25-lap duration, Al Harthy was boxed-in behind third place Archie Hamilton and at one point slipped back to fifth place when Parris dived up the inside at Paddock Hill Bend on the ninth lap. On the 13th tour though, a mistake from Parris gave Al Harthy the chance to get a good run on him up to Druids where he re-claimed fourth place.

Theodore moved into the top six on lap five and actually produced quicker lap times than Al Harthy and Hamilton. There was no way by Parris though and at the finish a mere 1.1 seconds covered Hamilton in third, fourth placed Al Harthy, Parris in fifth position and Theodore in sixth place.

In terms of the championship, everything is heating up at the top of the table behind runaway leader Kieren Clark with just 10 points splitting second placed Zamparelli, third placed Al Harthy and their pursuers Parris and Josh Mulholland. Theodore holds seventh position, just 18 points away from the top six, while Ellis Harkins and Alexander Jeffrey didn’t compete this weekend due to budget issues.

Next on the Protyre Formula Renault BARC calendar is a visit to Rockingham Motor Speedway in Northamptonshire a fortnight from now, 5th/6th September, for rounds 10 and 11 of the season.

The entire Hillspeed team would also like to take this opportunity to send its warmest wishes to co-founder Morgan Ollerenshaw who celebrated his landmark 65th birthday over the weekend.

Provisional 2009 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Driver Standings (after Rd9):
3rd Ahmad Al Harthy, 198pts; 7th James Theodore, 118pts; 17th Ellis Harkins, 34pts; 20th Alexander Jeffrey, 19pts