Performance disadvantage halts Oman Racing's FIA World Endurance Championship podium run at Monza

Sports Monday 10/July/2023 12:49 PM
By: Times News Service
Performance disadvantage halts Oman Racing's FIA World Endurance Championship podium run at Monza

Muscat: Round five of the FIA World Endurance Championship ultimately proved to be a frustrating race for Ahmad Al Harthy and Oman Racing with TF Sport at Monza in Italy on Sunday, 9th July, with a top speed performance disparity ending the team’s recent run of podium form.

Delivering an excellent strategy and with Al Harthy producing a very competitive and well-judged first couple of hours behind the wheel of the No.25 Aston Martin Vantage, in the middle part of the race the Balance of Performance difference to the rival Porsche and Ferrari entries proved too great.

In the end, Al Harthy, Michael Dinan and Charlie Eastwood fought as hard as possible but the challenge was insurmountable against cars which had a clear top speed advantage all weekend at the renowned flat-out track. Seventh position was the best the trio could achieve.

Having qualified an unexpected second fastest, Al Harthy took the start of the race at 12.30 local time and the Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, OQ, Omantel and MHD-ITICS backed racer made a good launch to maintain second in GTE Am. Soaking up immense pressure early on from the No.83 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, the Omani was unflappable with three quicker cars queuing up behind.

Around a quarter of an hour into the encounter, the Aston Martin slipped to third after a successful challenge by the No.33 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R. Al Harthy then kept a good gap to fourth, before following the Corvette into the pits at the 30-minute mark.

Emerging ahead of the rival car, Al Harthy was sixth on the road and the first of those to have made a pit-stop at that point and he soon moved back through to fourth around one hour into the race. As the differing strategies played out, Al Harthy climbed into the lead in hour two and then made his second stop with 90 minutes gone – holding a 16 second cushion prior to the pit visit.

After a quick turnaround he threaded back into the race in fifth and then moved into fourth when another of the front-runners served their second stop. Within eight seconds of the Corvette at the end of the second hour, just a few minutes later the Safety Car was required and soon after that the Omani moved up into third place, then second as a couple of rivals pitted.

Racing resumed with just over two hours and 15 minutes elapsed and Al Harthy assumed the lead when the Corvette pitted, before then heading for pitlane himself the next time around to cap a very strong double stint over 70 laps.

Dinan climbed behind the wheel for his first race mileage and settled in to third position, moving into second later in hour three before being edged back to fourth. As the halfway point of the race was reached Dinan remained in fourth, but the heat of battle increased as the speed advantage of the other front-runners began to tell.

Over the course of a very long and thankless final three hours, Dinan and then Eastwood did all they could through their respective stints but the Oman Racing with TF Sport car took the chequered flag in eighth position. Post-race, a penalty for a rival entry elevated them into seventh place.

Ahmad Al Harthy:

“During my stint I really had a good few opening laps, but when the race started to neutralise slightly we saw the difference in performance with the others. My main goal was to keep us in the hunt, we were off-sync with our strategy and it was actually looking good at that point. As soon as we went into the third hour and the second half of the race, the pace became even stronger from the others.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to be competitive with that kind of difference. Top speed is critical at Monza, and we just weren’t on a level playing field, so hopefully the organisers will look at this before Fuji. When we were able to be closer with the performance, at Spa and Le Mans, we had some great results so we’re still positive as long as we have a car that can be competitive against its rivals.”

There is now a break of nine weeks in the FIA World Endurance Championship calendar with round six, the penultimate event of the 2023 season, taking place over the weekend 9th/10th September, at Fuji Speedway in Japan. The event will mark Al Harthy’s first ever visit to the Far East track.