Safety Car mix-up denies Oman Racing Team place on Rockingham podium

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Round three of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Rockingham on Monday, 5th May, proved highly frustrating for Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine as the Oman Racing Team pairing lost out on a potential podium finish and the series lead through a costly mid-race Safety Car period.

Having led the championship standings going into the first two-hour race of the season, hopes were high of consolidation at the very least and after qualifying sixth fastest the Motorbase Performance engineered team looked in very good shape indeed.

Ahmad took the opening stint and although shuffled back to eighth position, the 32-year-old moved into seventh on lap four and then took sixth a couple of laps later. Continuing his excellent progress at the wheel of his Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3, the Omani moved into the top five on lap nine.

Although back in sixth when the Safety Car was deployed on lap 30, at the re-start Ahmad made quick work of the car ahead to retake fifth and as the pit window opened for teams to make their mandatory driver-change and refueling stops, the Oman Racing Team car remained on track.

Pitting at the end of lap 38 from second to hand over to Caine, the Safety Car was then re-deployed and the red lights at the end of the pitlane were erroneously illuminated. With Caine held at the end of the pitlane until the lights were extinguished, the mix-up cost the Oman Racing Team a definite chance of the podium with the Briton eventually rejoining the action down in 12th position.

With double points on offer for the 120-minute encounter, the confusion was an even bigger blow to the Oman Air, Oman Ministry of Tourism, Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Nawras, National Bank of Oman and Al Hashar Group/Aston Martin Oman-backed team.

Although doing as much as he could, Caine had to settle for 11th position in the end just outside the points-paying top 10. Post-race, though, an amendment to the race order was made by officials with the Oman Racing Team car elevated into 10th place due to a 10 second time penalty for a rival.

Reflecting on the race, Ahmad said: “I was quite happy with my stint and after the first Safety Car we were in P6 and as soon as it came in we moved to P5, at that point it all looked strong for a podium finish. Unfortunately, though, things out of our control cost us that chance. When Michael took over, he was held at the end of the pitlane but it was later acknowledged that shouldn’t have happened.

“He had to wait there for ages and was in a really tough situation, all of the lead I managed to gain was wiped out so we’re very disappointed. As a team, though, everyone did a great job again this weekend and our level of performance was good. The Safety Car situation took away a high finish in the points but hopefully at Silverstone we can be back in the fight for the podium.”

Image: Richard Leach
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