Kent: Oman Racing Team duo Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Caine will begin round nine of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship season at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit from a highly competitive third on the grid after an excellent run in qualifying.
On combined times from the all-important grid-determining sessions at the Kent track on Saturday, the pairing qualified a mere 0.007 seconds shy of the front row of the grid for the weekend's 120-minute race – the penultimate round of the season.
British driver Caine piloted the No. 4 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 in qualifying one and produced a best lap time of one minute and 26.352 seconds at the wheel of the Oman Air, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Sports Affairs, Nawras, National Bank of Oman and Al Hashar Group/Aston Martin Oman liveried car.
Requiring one of his most impressive qualifying performances of the year, 32-year-old Ahmad rose to the challenge superbly and delivered a fantastic lap of 1m26.533 seconds to top his session — less than 0.2 seconds outside Caine's benchmark.
Affording the teammates a tremendous opportunity to add to their 2014 podium tally, and possibly challenge for their third victory of the campaign, a smooth and problem-free start to round nine will be crucial as the Oman Racing Team seeks to close down the championship leaders.
"I'm really delighted," said Ahmad. "Personally, my performance was really strong and to get within two tenths of Michael's time in qualifying was great. We kept moving forward through the practice sessions, understanding the car, and we always knew with the weight we have to carry it was going to be very tough for Michael in his session with the most competitive drivers.
"Still, his time was very positive and we knew we had a strong car.
"The pressure was on for me to bring the gap down on the combined lap times and to get so close to Michael's pace really was a great feeling — especially having been out of the car for so long. Starting P3 for the race is very good and an extremely positive start, we just need to focus on the race and stay out of trouble."
Ahead of the two-hour Brands Hatch contest, Ahmad and Caine are fourth in the championship standings with a tally of three podiums so far in 2014.
In the team standings, the Oman Racing Team is currently in second place.
Provisional 2014 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Driver Standings (after Rd8): 4. Ahmad Al Harthy & Michael Caine 93 pts.
Provisional 2014 Avon Tyres British GT Championship Driver Standings (after Rd8): 2. Oman Racing Team 111 pts.