Mechanical problem two thirds of way through SPA 24hrs ends strong bid from OQ by Oman Racing

Sports Monday 01/July/2024 14:39 PM
By: Times News Service
Mechanical problem two thirds of way through SPA 24hrs ends strong bid from OQ by Oman Racing

Muscat: Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium was, for once, a less-than-happy hunting ground for Oman’s Ahmad Al Harthy over the weekend, 29th/30th June, when a mechanical problem with the No.30 BMW M4 GT3 – with just eight hours to run – ended involvement in this year’s Crowdstrike 24 Hours of Spa.

From the outset in the Centenary staging of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup’s blue riband event, Al Harthy’s OQ by Oman Racing team didn’t put a wheel wrong in terms of driving or the pit-stops as a top result in the Bronze class became a distinct reality.

Unfortunately, though, the as-yet unidentified mechanical issue on Sunday morning brought an immediate end to the challenge of Al Harthy and team-mates Sam De Haan, Jens Klingmann and Calan Williams.

Beginning the championship’s blue riband race at 16.30 local time on Saturday from 11th in the Bronze class, but with hopes of a major push for a very strong result with a competitive race set-up, everything started well with Klingmann taking the first stint.

Al Harthy took over after the opening pit-stop in the first hour and held fifth in the Bronze class, but after picking up some debris he had to pit again around 75 minutes into the encounter and dropped to 18th in class as a result.

Facing a tough challenge, and running out of sequence with the competition, Al Harthy made terrific progress through the order and as the race approached the end of hour two the Omani had climbed into eighth in Bronze. Continuing to make gains, he was back up into the class top five before the second scheduled pit visit.

Through the various driver cycles over the coming hours, with De Haan and Williams making their first appearances of the race, the strong run continued apace as evening became night and the OQ, Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, Omantel and BMW Oman supported entry ran strongly.

Heavy rain and thunderstorms over the Ardennes made the night portion of the race particularly challenging and treacherous, but Al Harthy and his team-mates kept their bid on track with some very impressive, committed and yet sensible driving.

With two-thirds of the race complete on Sunday morning, Klingmann was eighth in Bronze before handing the car over to Williams. It was during this stint when the mechanical issue struck in the second sector of the track and OQ by Oman Racing’s involvement came to an untimely end at Pouhon due to a total lack of power.

Ahmad Al Harthy:

“It was a very tough race, one of the hardest Spa 24 hours I have been part of or witnessed in terms of the level of competition and the excitement on the race track. We started out in a solid position, we started climbing through as we were planning and we knew we had a good race car. We actually had good pace and I was really happy with my stints.

“Unfortunately I picked up a penalty, from some debris on the race track, which resulted in us just coming out of sequence slightly but we knew we could alter that as the race went on. Going through the night was one of the toughest Spa races I’ve been involved in, with the rain and thunderstorms, and it was a target to finish the night phase of the race – which we did.

“As I was about to go in for my final two stints, unfortunately we had a mechanical issue with the car with about eight hours to go – we still have to analyse this to find out exactly what it was. There were zero mistakes from the team, zero mistakes from the drivers, we avoided any track limits penalties and it was looking very, very strong for a top position to be fair. I’d like to congratulate Faisal Al Zubair for winning the Gold glass, he did an amazing job and it was a proud moment for me to see the Omani flag fly once again at the Spa 24 hours.”

Next on the GTWCE schedule is a visit to Germany’s Nurburgring over the weekend 27th/28th July for round three of the season. Before then, Ahmad will return to action in the FIA World Endurance Championship with Team WRT with a trip to Interlagos in Brazil for round five of the campaign, over the weekend 13th/14th July – the Rolex 6 Hours of Sao Paulo.