Muscat: Podium finishing Pro-Am Blancpain Endurance Cup driver Ahmad Al Harthy and the Oman Racing Team will begin the biggest race of the year at Total 24 Hours of Spa, from eighth in class after a series of highly competitive qualifying sessions at the Belgian track on Thursday.
During the first of two grid-determining runs to set the starting order for the hugely prestigious twice-round-the-clock encounter, the No.44 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 posted a time of 2m21.684 seconds in the evening session before Ahmad’s team-mate Jonny Adam delivered a quickest time of 2m19.458 seconds early in the night qualifying period.
So ultra-competitive were the two track sessions, Adam’s best effort in the second qualifying period was within just a second of the outright pole position, and just 0.8 seconds shy of the Pro-Am pole, which translated into 24th on the overall grid and, most importantly, eighth in Pro-Am.
“We worked on different elements during the qualifying periods, due to the track being wet in the first session, but overall P8 is a respectable place to start from”, said Ahmad, who is backed by Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Oman Air, National Bank of Oman (NBO), Barr Al Jissah and Omantel, “We know how difficult the race will be but we are all extremely positive and will give it our best.”
During the opening Bronze test session on Tuesday, the Oman Racing Team powered by Motorbase got the event off to a strong start with the eighth fastest time overall, seventh in Pro-Am. Following a day of off-track activities on Wednesday, 27th July, including the annual parade of race cars into Spa town centre, the drivers returned to action on Thursday for all-important qualifying.
Following practice and pre-qualifying sessions where the team focused primarily on raceday set-up, the first qualifying session got underway at 20.00 local time but the subsequent night qualifying run was targeted as the one which would deliver the team’s best chance of its quickest time with better track conditions.
Adam delivered a fantastic lap of 2m19.458 seconds on only the Aston Martin’s fourth lap of the session which eventually secured the 13th fastest time overall in the night-time run and fourth in Pro-Am. On combined times though from the two sessions, it resulted in eighth in Pro-Am.
Joining Aston Martin Middle East and North Africa ambassador Ahmad in the line-up for the big race will be regular Blancpain Endurance Cup team-mates Adam and Devon Modell. The trio is joined for the 24 Hour contest by Aston Martin works driver Darren Turner.
Going into the race at Spa-Francorchamps, Ahmad, Adam and Modell are fourth in the Pro-Am championship standings while the Oman Racing Team is fifth in the entrants’ battle.
2016 Blancpain Endurance Cup Pro-Am Driver Standings (after Rd3): 4th Ahmad Al Harthy/Jonny Adam/Devon Modell, 30pts
2016 Blancpain Endurance Cup Pro-Am Team Standings (after Rd3): 5th Oman Racing Team powered by Motorbase, 30pts