Al Harthy awaits exciting Silver Cup challenge
March 5, 2018 | 4:38 PM
by Sports Reporter
Ahmad Al Harthy speaking during a ceremony organised to launch Oman Racing Team's 2018 progamme at Barr Al Jissah resort on Monday. Photo - ISMAIL AL FARSI/Times of Oman

Muscat: After an ‘incredible season’ in 2017, during which he emerged the Blancpain Endurance Cup Pro-Am champion, Ahmad Al Harthy is looking forward for a new challenge in the new season.

In 2018 Blancpain Endurance Cup series, the Omani racing star will be competing in the new Silver Cup class in his Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 car.

Ahmad Al Harthy, who will be competing in the world’s biggest GT endurance racing championship for a sixth season, revealed his future plans while launching Oman Racing Team’s 2018 progamme during an event at the Barr Al Jissah resort on Monday.

Speaking in the presence of the Ministry of Sports Affairs and Oman Automobile Association officials as we as the representatives of his sponsors, Ahmad Al Harthy said: “We come into 2018 off the back of an absolutely incredible season last year for Oman Racing. To win the Pro-Am championship in Blancpain was a dream come true, especially in the 10th anniversary year of Oman Racing. It was the culmination of so much hard work.”

“Now we have an exciting new challenge awaiting us this year and it’s one we’re all very much looking forward to. As ever, the level of competition is going to be extremely high and the Silver Cup will be a very closely contested championship.”

Oman Racing’s entry will once again be engineered and prepared by British squad TF Sport, with a three driver line-up confirmed for the new campaign.

Exciting line-up

Joining the Omani star will be Euan McKay, who contested one event with Oman Racing last year, and team newcomer Charlie Eastwood.

Having been partnered by Aston Martin ‘works’ driver Jonny Adam to the memorable Pro-Am championship triumph last year, the next chapter of Al Harthy’s Blancpain career now opens with two new team mates.

Euan McKay and Charlie Eastwood both make the move into full-time GT endurance racing from the Porsche Carrera Cup GB Championship, where Al Harthy himself was Pro-Am1 Champion in 2012. While McKay isn’t completely new to the Oman Racing team, he competed with the squad in the Gulf 12 Hours in December, Eastwood – the 2017 Porsche Carrera Cup GB Champion – debuts.

Speaking about his team mates, Al Harthy said: “Euan obviously raced with the team in the Gulf 12 Hours last year and he did a fantastic job on our way to a podium finish, so it’s wonderful he is with us for the full season in Blancpain.

“Charlie more than proved his talent in Porsche Carrera Cup GB, so I’m really looking forward to racing with him. I think we have a very strong, competitive and exciting driver line-up.”

Proud to back the star

Like in the previous season, Ahmad Al Harthy will be suppported by an unchanged portfolio of prestigious sponsors, spearheaded by the Ministry of Sports Affairs and Oman Air, the latter entering its landmark 10th year of partnership with the Omani star.

Also remaining a key part of Al Harthy’s motorsport programme will be the National Bank of Oman, Omantel, Barr Al Jissah and Amouage.

Speaking on the occasion, Fahad Al Raisi, Director General of Sports Development at the Ministry of Sports Affairs, said: “Once more we are very proud to offer key support to Ahmad and Oman Racing, especially after such an amazing season last year. Our long-standing partnership has been very beneficial for all involved and we’re extremely happy to extend our support as Ahmad again flies the flag for Oman.”

Meanwhile, Oman Air’s Head of Corporate Communications Usama Karim Al Haremi said: “We are proud to say 2018 marks the 10th year Oman Air has been an integral part of Ahmad’s motorsport programme. He is an incredible ambassador for our brand and winning the Pro-Am title last year was a fantastic achievement. Once again we will work together to promote Oman as a key destination for tourists and business travellers from all over our network, while also working closely to invest in the future of Oman.”

NBO’s General Manager and Chief Retail Officer John Chang said: “We are proud to be extending our partnership with Ahmad for another year and continuing to build on our nine-year long relationship. Ahmad has played an instrumental role in championing the aspirations of youth and, together, we hope to inspire generations to follow their dreams and lead with values of integrity, passion, discipline, perseverance, responsibility and corporate citizenship. We had a successful 2017 and cannot wait for the new season to begin.”

Speaking on behalf of Omantel, Said Salim Al Shanfari, General Manager Marketing Communications and Performance, said: “We are pleased to renew our partnership with the national racing champion Ahmad Al Harthy. Omantel has always been in support of Omani talents and we take great pride to see him shining in this kind of championship.”

Firas Matraji, CEO from Barr Al Jissah, added: “Once again we are extremely proud to be the host venue for the official launch of Ahmad’s racing programme for the coming season, it’s incredibly exciting to continue our partnership after such a successful year last year with the championship victory. We both share a very strong desire to promote all Oman has to offer, for business and tourism.”

Luxury niche fragrance house Amouage remains a key sponsor for a second season. David Crickmore, CEO, commented: “What a year 2017 was, our first as an official partner of Ahmad Al Harthy and Oman Racing. Our sponsorship of Ahmad enables us to provide our major clients the exclusive opportunity of experiencing the buzz and adrenaline rush of international motor racing at first hand. We’re delighted to continue our support of Ahmad into 2018 and we wish him and Oman Racing every success – we hope he returns home again as the champion of the series.”

Oman Racing will travel to Paul Ricard in France next week for the official pre-season Blancpain Endurance Cup test days on March 13 and 14. Round one of the new season will then follow on April 21 and 22 at Monza in Italy.

2018 Blancpain Endurance Cup Calendar

April 21-22: Rd1 Monza, Italy

May 19-20: Rd2 Silverstone, UK

June 1-2: Rd3 Paul Ricard, France

July 26-29: Rd4 Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium (Total 24 Hours of Spa)

September 29-30: Rd5 Barcelona, Spain

Test days

March 13-14: Official Pre-Season Test: Paul Ricard, France

July 3: Official Total 24 Hours of Spa Test: Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

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