x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pace of Al Harthy withstands pressure

Ahmad Al Harthy drove "one of the hardest races" of his life yesterday to win the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East race at Yas Marina Circuit.

Bandar Alesayi, right, gives Ahmad Al HArthy the thumbs up after the Omani driver won the Porsche GT3 Cup Middle East race.
Bandar Alesayi, right, gives Ahmad Al HArthy the thumbs up after the Omani driver won the Porsche GT3 Cup Middle East race.

ABU DHABI // Ahmad Al Harthy drove "one of the hardest races" of his life yesterday to win the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East race at Yas Marina Circuit.

The Omani driver had to endure fierce pressure from Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdulaziz Al Faisal in the opening half of the race, one of the support events for the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, before pulling away to claim his first victory in the series and take the championship lead from Prince Abdulaziz, the 2009/10 champion.

"I was under a lot of pressure," said the 30 year old, who drives for the Oman Air Racing Team.

"I think it was one of the hardest races of my life. I knew we had the pace to do a perfect race win and we did it, but it was not easy.

"I am just so happy. This is home to me, racing in the Middle East, and to win here on this weekend is just fantastic."

The gap was never more than a second for the first seven laps, but Al Harthy was able to gradually increase his lead to win by four seconds.

Stephane Lemeret dived inside of Bandar Alesayi, Saturday's race-winner, at Turn 7 on the first lap for third place, and he held on to the position for the rest of the race to complete the podium.

There was a double boost for James Calado, the British driver, who won yesterday's GP2 Final sprint race.

As well as winning in only his second race in the series by 1.7 seconds from Marcus Ericsson, he finished with the most points from one of the six new entrants from GP3, earning him €15,000 (Dh74,700) from Pirelli for being the best performing GP3 driver over the weekend.

Fabio Leimer, who won Saturday's feature race, finished 10th after an eventful end to the race that saw him collide with Stefano Coletti on the last lap, before being passed by Luiz Razia and Dani Clos at the last corner.

In the Porsche Supercup, Rene Rast followed up retaining his title on Saturday by winning yesterday's second race.

The German had been content to finish second behind Nick Tandy in the first race, but there was no stopping him yesterday as he led from start to finish to triumph ahead of Kevin Estre and Christian Englehart.

Khaled Al Qubaisi, the Emirati driver, was forced to retire on lap 10 after his Team Abu Dhabi car sustained damage following a spin at Turn 5 that saw him strike a barrier.

gcaygill@thenational.ae