Avon Tyres British GT Championship debutant Ahmad Al Harthy delivered an impressive account of himself during the first qualifying session of the 2013 season at Oulton Park International Circuit on Saturday, 30th March, to secure a top three grid slot for the opening race of the year.
Embarking on his maiden season of endurance racing competition, the 2012 Porsche Carrera Cup GB Pro-Am 1 Class Champion made a strong start at the wheel of his Oman Air Motorbase-run Porsche 997 GT3R and lapped the 2.7-mile Cheshire track with a best time of 1m37.338 seconds (99.55mph).
Delivering his quickest effort on the final lap of the opening 15-minute qualifying session, the Omani 31-year-old ended the run third fastest and little more than 0.2 seconds shy of a sensational debut pole position from a bumper grid of 32 cars.
“We had some very, very difficult sessions but we kept working on the set-up throughout and I’m happy with how things progressed”, said Ahmad, “To get P3 on the last lap of my qualifying run was a very solid effort and I’m pleased with it to start my first weekend in British GT.
“Endurance racing is entirely new to us, the important thing is to learn as much as we can each and every weekend and make positive steps forward. Personally, I’m happy with how I performed today and I’m really looking forward to the races on Monday.”
In the second qualifying session, determining the grid for round two, Ahmad’s team-mate Michael Caine – the reigning British GT Champion – took the wheel and had to settle for 19th on the grid with ballast in the car, as a result of winning last year’s title, hampering his charge.
Even so, hopes are high in the Oman Air Motorbase camp of a solid start to the 2013 season when the first two 60-minute races of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship take place on Monday, 1st April, at the picturesque track.
“I know both races will be extremely tough, we have quite a lot of ballast on the car but we’ll do our best to overcome that and deliver two strong performances”, added Ahmad, “This year is such a big learning curve for me, to have started it well in our first qualifying session is very pleasing.”
The Oman Air, Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Oman Ministry of Tourism, Nawras, National Bank of Oman and Muscat Eye Laser Centre-backed driver will be back on track at 10.55 (UK time) on Monday, 1st April, for round one of the season. Round two is scheduled to follow at 14.55.
Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.