Muscat: History making FIA World Endurance Championship racer Ahmad Al Harthy secured his, and Oman Racing’s, first podium finish in the globe’s biggest endurance racing category on Saturday, 29th April, during an action-packed TotalEnergies 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
Already making headlines the day before with an absolutely scintillating maiden GTE Am pole position in qualifying, Al Harthy proudly flew the Omani flag on the FIA WEC podium 24 hours later after a fantastic performance with team-mates Michael Dinan and Charlie Eastwood.
In addition to the race result itself, of course, the Oman Racing with TF Sport trio have climbed the driver standings into [TBC] position – a move of [TBC] places – while the squad itself is an improved [TBC] in the team standings.
Saturday’s race in Belgium began on a damp track and the No.25 Aston Martin Vantage was fitted with slick Michelin tyres for the start. Dinan began the race and while the early running was difficult with grip at a premium, slipping down to eighth place, the American did an outstanding job on the slick rubber to stay in contention and he battled back brilliantly as the track dried more and more.
Into the top five before the end of the first half hour, he returned to the podium placings ahead of the first round of pit stops. Moving as high as second before Oman Racing’s initial pit visit, Dinan rejoined in fourth and stayed in the podium fight before handing over the car to Al Harthy.
Determined to keep the podium challenge on course, the Omani raced superbly and held third spot with two and a half hours elapsed – delivering fantastic pace and racecraft.Positions changed fairly regularly with Safety Car interventions and different strategies in play, Oman Racing leading at points, and there was very little to chose between the front-running contenders.
The Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, OQ, Omantel and MHD-ITICS supported driver didn’t put a wheel wrong and after serving the team’s fourth stop, Al Harthy continued in fourth and then made his way back into the top three before Eastwood took over for the final couple of hours.
With 90 minutes to run the Irishman was fourth, but he moved inside the top three again. Gaining more and more ground, as the race entered its closing stages Eastwood was right on the tail of the No.33 Chevrolet Corvette. Trying everything to find a way past, at the end of six intense hours the Oman Racing Aston Martin finished third and just 0.2 seconds shy of the runner-up spot.
Marking a true breakthrough weekend for Al Harthy and Oman Racing in FIA World Endurance, the Spa performance has been the perfect preparation for the crown jewel event of the season which comes next – the one and only Le Mans 24 Hours.
Ahmad Al Harthy:
“Amazing, amazing – finally! We’ve done it, making history again, I’m so happy to have taken the podium we’ve wanted for so long. After qualifying on pole position, the start to the race was challenging as Michael went with slicks on the damp track, so it was very difficult, but he drove amazingly well and did an incredible job.
“All the drivers and the team did an amazing job, the positions were changing and moving around with lots going on with Safety Cars. It went for us, and went against us at times, but in the end we got the podium and were less than half a second from second place. Charlie kept fighting right to the finish, he raced so well.
“I was very pleased with my drive in the battle with everybody all the time, although we were synched slightly differently with pit-stops. Sometimes we were fifth, sometimes leading, and then in the final hour we could see the podium was possible. Again, a historic moment for Oman and I am so very proud to be representing my country and Arabia in the biggest championship in the world.
“This motivates us even more for Le Mans and I must thank everyone behind the scenes, our partners and the supporters as, without them, this just wouldn’t happen. It really means a lot to me for all of them to believe in our programme – and we have delivered.”
Six weeks from now Al Harthy and Oman Racing with TF Sport will be at the world-famous Circuit de la Sarthe in France for the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours. The big race will begin on Saturday, 10th June, concluding of course on Sunday, 11th June, and will mark the Omani’s maiden appearance in the endurance classic.
2023 FIA World Endurance Championship GTE Am Driver Standings:
8th Ahmad Al Harthy / Michael Dinan / Charlie Eastwood, 23pts
2023 FIA World Endurance Championship GTE Am Team Standings:
8th Oman Racing with TF Sport, 23pts