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MENAFN - Muscat Daily - 27/05/2014
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(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Oman Racing Team (ORT) opened its points tally in the 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series when the trio of Stephen Jelley, Ahmad al Harthy and Michael Caine finished tenth in the overall category and ninth in the Pro Cup class in the second round at the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit in the UK on Sunday.

The M-Sport Bentley trio of Guy Smith, Andy Meyrick and Steven Kane won the title after an exciting three-hour race. The ART Grand Prix (McLaren) team of Andy Soucek, Kevin Estre and Kevin Korjus came second, while Belgium's Audi Club Team WRT, comprising Marc Basseng, Cesar Ramos and Laurens Vanthoor, finished third.

The ORT drivers delivered an excellent turn of pace in their respective one hour stints to emerge as the highest placed of the Aston Martin squads - and the fastest as well.

''It was a good race and a good result for everyone in the team,'' said Ahmad. ''We got what we wanted from the weekend, finishing in the Pro Cup points for the first time is exactly what we set out to achieve. I'm happy with my stint in the car, Stephen and Michael both did a great job, and we've got points on the board. That's what we needed after the early retirement at Monza, Italy.''

Beginning the second round of the season from an uncharacteristic 20th on the grid overall, after a red-flag stoppage in qualifying spoiled the team's run, British driver Jelley took the opening stint and made good progress into the 11th position by lap 20.

Served with a costly drive-through penalty as one of eight drivers deemed by race officials to have improved in a yellow flag zone, Jelley pitted immediately to try and limit the damage. After rejoining the track, he then stopped to hand the car over to Ahmad on lap 30. With jusover an hour of the race completed, Ahmad threaded into the action in 14th position overall.

With a huge 12-second gap to bridge with the car in front, Ahmad reeled off some strong laps. On lap 47, he managed to take 13th position from the similar Aston Martin V12 Vantage of regular British GT Championship rival Andrew Howard. Although nudged back to 14th place by the advancing BMW of Nick Catsburg, Ahmad held position for the next seven laps before handing over to Caine.

During the final hour's run, which was interrupted by the appearance of the safety car, British driver Caine delivered a typically strong and assured performance to bring home the No 44 ORT car inside the overall top ten and No 9 in the Pro Cup category. ''The red flag in qualifying hurt us, we should have been higher up the grid, but we came through and the car was great,'' Ahmad said.

''We were the quickest of the Aston Martin teams, so that's something very positive. Everything has been a step forward this weekend, we've improved the car, we were faster at the pit-stops - everything has been better than Monza, so I'm happy.''

Paul Ricard in France will host the third round of the 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series on June 27-28. Before that, Ahmad and the ORT will be back on track at Silverstone just a few days from now for another three hour race - this time for the fourth round of the British GT Championship, on June 1.

Blancpain Endurance Series (teams' standings; after round two): 1 ART Grand Prix (43), 2 M-Sport Bentley (35), 3 Sainteloc Racing (30), 8 Oman Racing Team (8).

Drivers' standings; after round two): 1 Kevin Korjus (33), 1 Kevin Estre (33), 1 Andy Soucek (33); 12 Ahmad al Harthy (2), Stephen Jelley (2), Michael Caine (


 


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