Muscat: The Oman Racing with TF Sport trio of Ahmad Al Harthy, Michael Dinan and Charlie Eastwood staged a competitive recovery during the opening round of the 2023 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Sebring in the USA on Friday to finish ninth in the LMGTE Am class despite suffering a puncture in the first hour of racing.
The trio was in a good position to mount a challenge for the GTE Am podium finish during the 8hr race, thanks to a superb top-three qualifying performance from Al Harthy. However, they had to be content with a ninth spot, having lost significant time during the first stint.
American racer Dinan took the start at his home race in the No.25 Aston Martin GTE and held third place early on, but just five laps into the contest a heavy accident for the No.83 Ferrari 488 resulted in the appearance of the Safety Car.
Almost all of the GTE Am cars served their first pit-stops while the race was under caution, with the D’Station Racing Aston Martin an exception. When racing resumed, Dinan was fourth but when the D’Station car pitted around 75 minutes into the race Dinan moved back into third.
Just a short while later, though, a puncture to the front-right tyre put Dinan off the circuit and a huge amount of time was lost as he coaxed the car back to the pits. Rejoining the track in 12th position in GTE Am, Dinan pitted again with one hour and 45 minutes elapsed.
Al Harthy climbed into the driving seat of the Aston Martin for his first race miles in FIA WEC and he immediately set the squad’s fastest lap of the race at that point.
The Omani, supported by Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, OQ, Omantel and MHD-ITICS, then climbed into 11th place before the end of hour two and closed time on the cars ahead.
Dinan returned to the driving seat late in hour three, before Al Harthy started his second stint in hour four and continued to push as the team tried to recover as much time as possible. Halfway through the race Al Harthy held 10th position and he lapped impressively, delivering pace which confirmed the squad’s podium potential had the early puncture not occurred.
During the second half of the encounter Eastwood became part of the mix but with so much time having been lost, his only option was to consolidate the ninth place which was secured later on – a character building event in some respects but a clear indication of Oman Racing’s WEC potential.
Ahmad Al Harthy said: “It was a tough race. Unfortunately, because of the puncture in the first hour, we had to catch up from there but the time lost was just too big in such a competitive championship where it’s very difficult to come back. But we did come back to P9, which was the best we could do.
“I was really happy with my performance, it showed if things go perfectly well for us we can get good results here in WEC. It’s a very competitive championship and we learned a lot about racing at Sebring.
“Personally, for me, it was a new track and I learnt a lot and was really happy with my pace overall. In terms of the championship we learnt a lot as well, which will hopefully help us in Portimao in Portugal.”
Round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the 6 Hours of Portimao, will take place on Sunday, April 16, at the Autodromo do Algarve in Portugal.