911 talk: Ahmad Al Harthy in the GT3R
In just six short years, Ahmad Al Harthy has firmly established himself as one of the Middle East’s most talented sportsmen and Oman’s shining light in global motor racing. Following a very successful background competing in Formula Renault single-seaters, Ahmad switched to the world of sports car racing in 2010, competing in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB Championship where he was crowned Pro-Am 1 Champion in 2012.
2013 has seen Al Harthy step up to endurance racing partnering Michael Caine in the #1 Oman Air Motorbase Porsche 997 GT3R competing in the prestigious Avon Tyre British GT Championship. We caught up with the Oman-based driver during the mid-season hiatus to hear the 31-year-old’s thoughts on his season so far…
Ahmad, you’ve enjoyed a good start to this British GT campaign thus far. How did you find the transition from the Carrera Cup to the British GT Championship at the start of the season in terms of the endurance race format and also having a partner?
I felt very comfortable with the transition; the Motorbase team made it very easy for me to feel at home. Driving the car was also a smooth transition – it was more about understanding the championship and strategies involved during the longer races.
I still find it weird to see the car I am usually driving being driven by another racer, I think it is more nerve wrecking to watch Michael on the timing screens than to be actually racing in the car!
Having previously raced against Michael (Caine) in the Carrera Cup – how has your perception of him as a driver changed since becoming team-mates?
When I used to race against him he never offered to make a cup of tea, these days I get offered one every time he enters the office- it still hasn’t registered with him that I don’t drink tea!
In all seriousness, Michael has been amazing. He is there to do his best, but he is always guiding me and it helps to have a team-mate that has so much to offer in terms of finding that extra speed in both the car as well as me, to keep developing as a driver.
The British GT grid is currently experiencing a revival at the moment with impressive numbers on the grid so far this season – as a driver how do you plan strategically to cope with this level of competition, especially on some of the smaller circuits?
Being able to race in Blancpain has helped me cope with the huge grids. We always aim to be in the front of the grid; but with the extra weight in the car things don’t always go according to plan in qualifying. Oulton Park was very challenging and our next weekend at Brands Hatch will be tough as well.
Why do you think that the GT is attracting so many new entries into the Championship this season? What attracted you to make the move across from the Carrera Cup?
I’ve always wanted to race in Endurance Championships and for me it was the right time to make the switch, winning the Porsche Carrera Cup GB Pro-AM1 Championship last year gave me the opportunity to do so and it’s great to see that the British GT Championship is so popular. I think GT Endurance racing will keep getting more popular because of what it has to offer.
What do you feel have been the major changes to your driving style or outlook that you’ve had to make since moving across to the GT3R?
Moving from a GT3 to a GT3R was perfect for me, we are still working on some areas where I need to adapt and I think once I am comfortable with the changes I hope to find more time.
Motorbase have been the only team to score points in each round so far this season – being new to the team this year what do you think the key to the team’s success is?
You have to come and watch the team in action to really understand how everything flows. This comes with years of experience and the team members loving their jobs.
What can we expect to see from Ahmad Al Harthy for the rest of this season?
I’m looking forward to be racing in the 24Hrs of Spa in a few days’ time; it will be my first time at Francochamps and this will be one of the highlights of 2013 for me.
British GT returns with round seven at Brands Hatch on 10/11 August. For more information, visit the British GT website.