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Caine and Al Harthy take the spoils in Oulton Park British GT opener

Monday, April 21 2014

Michael Caine and Ahmad Al Harthy took the first win of the 2014 Avon Tyres British GT Championship season at Oulton Park today (Monday), after a tense encounter.

Al Harthy's Oman Racing Aston Martin held the lead from Andrew Howard in the Beechdean example at the start and with Marco Attard in third with the Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4, the race got underway. John Minshaw and Rembert Berg were both delayed on the opening lap, the latter having to make a quick pitstop.

The early stages saw several marques paired as the two Aston Martins led the BMWs of Ecurie Ecosse and Triple 8, then the AF Corse and FF Corse Ferraris, with the United Autosports Audi slightly spoiling the symmetry, leading the MP Motorsport and PGF-Kinfaun Aston Martins. Behind them Steve Tandy's Bentley was pulling away from Sir Chris Hoy's Nissan, the former Olympic cyclist settling into his British GT debut just outside of the top ten.

GT4 was being fought by Ross Wylie, Rick Parfitt Jr and Andrew Jarman for Beechdean Aston Martin, Century Ginetta and TF Sport Aston Martin respectively, but there was drama up ahead as Attard's BMW made a very smoky pitstop after 15 minutes of the race. Unsurprisingly the car made no further progress in the race.

Hoy was promoted to the top ten when Steve Tandy was forced to pit with problems soon after the Ecosse car, but whilst all of this was going on, Al Harthy was making excellent progress to consolidate his lead over Howard. However the safety car was called into action, and with the pit window now open, Howard was in the ideal place to make his stop.

With the pro drivers waiting in the garages, it was no surprise to see almost everyone in, and when the race resumed, Caine in the Oman Racing Aston Martin led Luke Hines in the Triple 8 BMW and Richard Lyons in the AF Corse Ferrari. Jonny Adam was fourth in the Beechdean car, so the early stop did not have quite the desired effect, to say the least.

Caine was coming under pressure as the second part of the race got into its stride, whilst Adam had United Autosports' Matt Bell on his tail, and with less than four seconds between all of the top five, there would be lots to settle in the latter stages. Rob Barff (FF Corse), Richard Abra (MP Motorsport) and John Gaw (PGF-Kinfaun) were just behind too, and with Hoy's team mate Buncombe losing out from the safety car period, there was an eight-way battle for the win.

In GT4, Jake Giddings had assumed the lead in the Beechdean Aston Martin over new second place man Gavan Kershaw in the Lotus Evora, but he had also lost out under the safety car and had the best part of a lap to make up.

The lead battle became a duel in the final ten minutes, with Hines lining up Caine for the win, however he was given a stop-go penalty duly obliged, handing second to Lyons and a vital breather for the Oman Racing car. Barff was next to go missing, pitting with damage to the rear of his Ferrari which ended his race early.

Meanwhile there was a tense battle for what was now eighth place, with Steven Kane hassling Buncombe. The Bentley was on the Nissan's tail as they entered the final lap moments before Caine crossed the line to win the race from Lyons and Adam. Kane then passed for eighth halfway round the lap, following Bell, Gaw, Abra and Hines. Giddings and Wylie took the GT4 win for Beechdean, from Kershaw and Yusuf in the Lotus Evora and Devon Modell and Andrew Jarman's Aston Martin.

Avon Tyres British GT Championship race one
1, Oman Racing Team, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, Ahmad Al Harthy/Michael Caine, 35 Laps
2, AF Corse, Ferrari 458 Italia, Pasin Lathouras/Richard Lyons, +3.561s
3, Beechdean AMR, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, Andrew Howard/Jonny Adam, +7.775s
4, United Autosports, Audi R8 LMS Ultra, Mark Patterson/Matt Bell, +8.081s
5, PGF‐Kinfaun AMR, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, Phil Dryburgh/John Gaw, 19.637s
6, MP Motorsport AMR, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, Mark Poole/Richard Abra, +19.844s
7, 888, BMW Z4 GT3, Derek Johnston/Luke Hines, +32.331s
8, M-Sport, Bentley Continental GT3, Humaid Al Masaood/Steven Kane, +1:31.843s
9, Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan GT‐R GT3, Chris Hoy/Alex Buncombe, +1:33.055
10, Trackspeed, Porsche 997 GT3 R, Jon Minshaw/Phil Keen, 1:34.677

Click here for the full race result.

Race two will take place at 15:45.

Raceday tickets for the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at Oulton Park are available on the gate for £22 on Monday, with free entry for children aged 12 and under. For more information, call 0843 453 9000 or click here.