Tough Snetterton weekend for Oman Racing Team in British GT

24/06/2014 @ 11:16:00

Good pace but frustrating results was the outcome for the Integrity Cleanroom sponsored Oman Racing Team at Snetterton in Norfolk during rounds five and six of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship (21/22 June).

With two wins from the opening four races, the Motorbase-run Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine went to the East Anglian track pitching for more success, while the team's other Aston Martin was in the hands of Rory Butcher and new co-driver Jeff Smith. Ultimately, the Oman car was thwarted in qualifying and the Butcher/Smith car lost a top six finish after a grassy moment.

In qualifying for round five, Al Harthy was tenth fastest and Smith 13th, but Caine suffered badly in the Oman car in qualifying for round six when a red flag wrecked his best lap. That left them down in 17th place, with Butcher posting tenth best time.

The #4 Oman car had an added handicap in place in the form of an extra 15 seconds in the pit stop due to its win at Silverstone, and Al Harthy/Caine raced very hard to get the car into a points' scoring eighth place at the end of the hour-long race. Meanwhile, Smith and Butcher had a really strong race working their way up into sixth place and were chasing fifth when Butcher made a rare error and slid onto the grass heading into the Esses. A move that unfortunately dropped the #5 Vantage back to 11th at the flag.

Round six was red flagged on lap two after a major multi-car accident at the first corner. Lengthy repairs to the barriers delayed the re-start by an hour, and when the race finally got underway it did so behind the Safety Car.

That was bad news for Butcher, who had battled up to seventh place on the original first lap but then had to go back to tenth on the grid for the re-start. After a hard-fought race, the Al Harthy/Caine car ended the race in 12th place, just half a second ahead of the #5 Butcher/Smith car.

The Oman Racing Team now has the mammoth task of preparing the Al Harthy/Caine Vantage for this coming weekends Blancpain Endurance race at Paul Ricard where they pairing will be joined by Stephen Jelley. The British GT season now takes a short break before heading to Belgium for the championship's only overseas round at Spa-Francorchamps on 12/13 July.

Oman Racing Team driver Ahmad Al Harthy said:
"We fought as hard as we could and took some good points away from the first race, we showed again how competitive our package is but qualifying was the main problem. Our race pace was good, I was happy with my own performance and Michael was, of course, very strong too but overtaking at Snetterton is so difficult.

"You always want to score in every round, we weren't able to do that but there are positives to take away. The aim is to improve our qualifying for the next round of British GT."

Oman Racing Team driver Michael Caine said:
"We should have qualified better, but unfortunately once again we were on a good lap when the red flag came out. We went back out, but couldn't find a gap in the traffic. We're not having much luck with our qualifying at the moment.

"In the races it was always going to be tough with the extra 15 seconds on the pit stop for our Silverstone win, but we picked up some points. It was a bit of a tough weekend and the driving standards in the early laps of the second race were outrageous: we got hit around a lot."

Oman Racing Team driver Rory Butcher said:
"Jeff [Smith] did a really good job and it was a massive challenge for him: he got quicker and quicker throughout the weekend.

"It was an up and down weekend for us and we made a big change to set-up for Sunday, which really improved the car for the races. In the first race we were chasing fifth place and I made an error: I was just pushing too hard. It was a shame that the second race was red-flagged as I'd got up to seventh on the first lap and then had to go back to tenth for the re-start."