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Oman racing team records stunning win
July 29, 2019 | 8:50 PM
by Agencies
Perfect performance delivers perfect result for Al Harthy in Spa 24hrs. - Supplied photo
 
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Muscat: Ahmad Al Harthy and the Oman Racing team did the absolute unthinkable during round four of the Blancpain Endurance Cup season in Belgium over the weekend, 27th/28th July, by taking a stunning Pro-Am race victory in the annual Total 24 Hours of Spa – despite having to start from the pitlane!

Marking a huge moment in Oman racer Al Harthy’s glittering career, the remarkable win was his first in the blue riband twice-round-the-clock race and also the maiden class victory for Aston Martin at the endurance classic. Additionally, the huge haul of points scored means Al Harthy now leads the championship standings by an enhanced 16 points with one race remaining.

Partnered by regular Blancpain team-mates Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc, with the addition of Aston Martin factory driver Nicki Thiim to the TF Sport engineered squad for this event, the quartet produced a determined, classy and, most importantly, ultra-competitive performance.

In a race where torrential rain played a huge role, so much so almost six hours were lost during a red flag stoppage on Sunday morning when conditions were deemed too dangerous on the saturated track, the Oman Racing drivers were faultless and the team-work absolutely exceptional.



“Honestly, this is a dream come true – we’ve been waiting for this day since I started racing”, said an overjoyed Al Harthy, “I’m so proud for my country to have achieved this, the most important thing for me is to proudly fly the flag for Oman and to win the Total 24 Hours of Spa, leading at every major points scoring part of the race, is incredible for us and for our championship challenge.

“It’s wonderful to be celebrating this historic win, the first class win at Spa for Aston Martin, in the week when Renaissance Day in Oman has celebrated the 49th year of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said’s reign. I’m so proud of this achievement, the best of my life, and of the unbelievable work of Oman Racing and our partners TF Sport.”



Al Harthy added: “I have had so much incredible support for my entire career from so many partners back home in Oman, and I have to say a special thank you to the National Bank of Oman, Ministry of Sports Affairs, Omantel and Barr Al Jissah for their support again this season. Our dedication, hard work and commitment has made all of this possible, it’s a huge effort from so many people ”

Perfect performance delivers perfect result for Al Harthy in Spa 24hrs

Following the team’s enforced switch to a spare car after a practice accident for Yoluc on Thursday, 25th July, despite a strong top four Pro-Am qualifying performance Oman Racing had to start the race on Saturday afternoon from the pitlane as per series regulations linked to the chassis change.

Facing a monumental challenge, but confident of mounting a podium bid nonetheless, rain then arrived ahead of the scheduled start at 16.30 local time so officials opted to begin the 24 hour race behind the Safety Car.

Thiim took the opening stint of the race, looking to make up as much ground as quickly as possible, and when the action proper began he started to scythe through the order and was into seventh position in Pro-Am inside the first half hour.

Within just 90 minutes of track action, the spectacular Dane was remarkably into second place in class and in 31st position overall from the immense 72-car entry and he went on to climb into the Pro-Am lead before the end of his double-stint, inside the overall top 15.

Yoluc was next in the car, running second in class, before handing over to Eastwood although his run was impacted by a Safety Car period which limited his chance to try and make the most of a new set of tyres. At the five-hour mark Eastwood handed over to Thiim from second position and 60 minutes later he was back in the lead, securing vital points as the race hit one quarter distance.

Rain had returned to Spa as evening became night, the point at which Al Harthy was ready to make his first appearance of the race. Driving beautifully in very challenging conditions, a skill the Omani has become famous for during his career, Al Harthy continued to lead Pro-Am in the outright top 20.

Following further runs for Eastwood and Thiim, Al Harthy climbed back aboard the No.97 Aston Martin ahead of the halfway point of the race during the small hours of Sunday morning and he maintained the lead – in increasingly atrocious conditions – to accrue a maximum points haul at the 12 hour scoring juncture.

Then, shortly before 06.00, officials red flagged the race due to the relentless torrential rain and the amount of standing water around the track. While the initial plan was a cessation of around an hour, continued horrendous weather meant the action was halted until 11.30.

With Al Harthy having been behind the wheel at the time of the stoppage, leading Pro-Am and in the overall top 15, he took the re-start with all cars having been held in parc ferme conditions – unable to be worked on by the teams.

Subsequently handing the car back to Yoluc after several laps, the Turkish racer maintained the Pro-Am lead and Thiim then returned to the cockpit as the race headed into its final two hours with an advantage of two laps over the nearest challenger in class.

Driving well, during a period containing several dramatic late-race incidents, Thiim helped to wrap-up a famous maiden class win at the Total 24 Hours of Spa for Oman Racing a lap ahead and in a very impressive 22nd place overall.

“This was the hardest race of my life, you couldn’t see two metres in front of you during the night with the rain and the headlights making visibility so difficult”, reflected Al Harthy, “After FP1 the team had to work so hard to build the spare car, then we had to fight from the back but our strategy was bullet proof – we served the least pit-stops of everyone and had a great car. What a race!”

There is now a long nine week break in the Blancpain Endurance Cup calendar ahead of the fifth and final round of the 2019 season, at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain, on Sunday, 29th September.

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