Ahmad Al Harthy and Charlie Eastwood, teammates in the #97 Oman Racing with TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 and making their season debut, won a lights-to flag victory in Race One of the two one-hour race double-header comprising rounds five and six of the 2021 Intelligent Money British GT Championship at Snetterton.
Eastwood brought the #97 Aston Martin home over eight seconds ahead of Martin Plowman in the #11 Paddock Motorsport Bentley Continental GT3, the first GT3 podium finish for the team owned by Plowman and Kelvin Fletcher.
Finishing third overall was the hard-charging Dennis Lind in the #63 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 he shared with fellow championship leader Leo Machitski. Lind had carved his way through the field on his stint, passing Jonny Adam for third on the final lap.
In the GT4 category, class honours went to the #2 team Rocket RJN McLaren 570S GT4 in which Jordan Collard took the chequered flag over nine seconds ahead of Gus Burton in the #57 Century Motorsport BMW M4 GT4. Completing the top three in class was the #15 Toyota GAZOO Racing UK GR Supra driven by Scott McKenna and John Ferguson.
There was disappointment for Team Parker Racing after its Porsche 911 GT3 R failed to make the start due to a throttle sensor issue.
Ahmad Al Harthy led the field away from pole position in the #97 Aston Martin followed by Kelvin Fletcher in the #11 Paddock Motorsport Bentley.
Fletcher sensed that he could compete for the lead but Michael Igoe in the #18 WPI Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 passed Morgan Tillbrook in the #77 Enduro Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 and was chasing down the Bentley driver, forcing Fletcher to think defensively.
After five minutes, the pressure on Fletcher from Michael Igoe meant that Al Harthy could start to pull out an advantage at the front, the Omani driver setting the fastest lap of the race to that point on his fourth lap with a 1:51.111.
Richard Williams, who had started from the pit lane in the #42 Steller Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT4, made contact with Matt Topham in the #27 Newbridge Motorsport Aston Martin on his sixth lap, sustaining suspension damage in the process and forcing a return to the garage.
There was drama for the GT4 class-leading #3 McLaren after Alain Valente suffered a puncture, forcing the McLaren Development Driver to return to the pits after eight laps.
GT3 championship leader Leo Machitski finally managed to pass the #77 McLaren on lap 12 and the #63 Lamborghini could finally begin chasing down Igoe’s #18 machine.
There was further drama after Michael Igoe went into to the back of Fletcher’s Bentley after the second and third place cars encountered traffic. Igoe’s Lamborghini sustained damage to the front and the team was later penalised for the incident.
After the driver changes had cycled through, Charlie Eastwood, now at the wheel of the #97 Aston Martin, retained the lead but with a reduced gap of just over five seconds ahead of Martin Plowman in the #11 Bentley.
Running in third, Marcus Clutton, at the wheel of the #77 McLaren was served with a drive-through penalty for a pitstop infringement. Clutton chose to stay out and was shown a black flag.
Meanwhile, Dennis Lind was flying in the #63 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 20 and closing in to just over half a second behind Yelmer Buurman in the #6 Mercedes. Buurman had to return to the pits with a tyre problem, promoting Lind to sixth. The #63 driver continued to push and on lap 27 passed reigning champion Sandy Mitchell for fifth.
With just over six minutes remaining, Clutton came in for the black flag, promoting Jonny Adam in the #7 Aston Martin to third. Adam was to quickly find himself fending off Lind in the #63 Lamborghini until the double Le Mans winner was baulked by traffic on the final lap. Lind saw his moment and passed for passed the #7 Aston Martin for the final podium spot.
In the GT4 class Collard in the #2 McLaren took the lead from Gus Burton in the #57 BMW after the driver changes pulled out a lead of over 21 seconds by the chequered flag. The closest on-track battle over the final laps was for third with Scott McKenna holding on to take the final podium position.
Ahmad Al Harthy was delighted at the victory.
“Being away from the car for such a long time and then announcing our new partnerships, it really means a lot to me and to Oman as well,” said Al Harthy. “I’m really happy. The race was very clean and the start was good. I was pushing as hard as I could and it was really a matter of keeping it on the track.”
Teammate Charlie Eastwood said:
“Ahmad had done all the hard work so I had to maintain it as best as I could and the guys were just keeping me updated with the gap. It is my first British GT win and Ahmad made it very easy!”
Race Two gets underway at 16:15.