Muscat: Ahmad Al Harthy and Blancpain Endurance Cup teammates Jonny Adam and Devon Modell brilliantly overcame huge odds during the final round of the season at the Nurburgring on Sunday, after opening lap contact threatened to derail their Pro-Am points hopes.
Starting the three-hour contest at the German venue from class pole position for the first time, a lofty sixth on the overall grid, the Oman Racing Team trio headed into the season finale aiming to secure third in the Pro-Am championship and after a great start from Al Harthy all looked positive.
Holding position as the race began, the Muscat driver neatly threaded his way into the first corner sandwiched between two ‘Pro’ class cars but as they rounded the apex the No.44 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 was tapped and pitched across the front of the car to Ahmad’s right.
Recovering a long way down on the rest of the field, stone last in 52nd position overall, Ahmad put the frustration of the contact behind him and professionally focused on carving his way through the order as quickly as possible.
An early Safety Car period afforded the Omani a chance to reduce the 16-second deficit to the pack faster than may otherwise have been the case and when racing resumed on lap six he charged through the order with some outstanding driving.
Steering the Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Oman Air, National Bank of Oman (NBO), Barr Al Jissah and Omantel-backed Aston Martin into 44th overall and 17th in Pro-Am inside the first 15 minutes of action, half an hour later Ahmad was up into 14th in Pro-Am and 37th overall.
Confirming the pace and performance of the Oman Racing Team powered by Motorbase package, the 35-year-old then pitted for the first driver-change stop with around 55 minutes of racing elapsed from 14th in class. Modell took the second stint and at the halfway point of the race he held 11th in Pro-Am and 30th place overall before rising into eighth in class before the second pit-stop.
Pole position qualifier Adam then got behind the wheel for the final hour and sealed 26th place overall, eighth in Pro-Am, to secure enough points to wrap-up fourth in the Pro-Am Championship, a point clear of fifth place. Frustratingly, though, they just missed out on a coveted top three placing in the standings by the same margin. In the entrant standings, the Oman Racing Team took fifth.
“We were so close to achieving our target of third in the championship, it really couldn’t have been any closer,” said Ahmad after the race. “We did everything we could, absolutely everything, and to come back through from last place to score some points in eighth in Pro-Am was a fantastic result.
“There was nothing I could do at the start. Everything went well when the race began, I was minding my own business and we went into the first corner still in the lead of Pro-Am. Then I got tapped and turned around and that was it, the hopes of the top three in the championship ended there. I was happy with how I came back though from the back and Devon and Jonny both did a great job.”
He added: “It’s been quite a frustrating year in the sense we’ve had the pace for the podium every weekend, but a few little things got in the way and that’s the difference in a championship as close and competitive as Blancpain. The guys in the team did an incredible though job with the car all year, and again this weekend, and they deserve a huge amount of credit for a very strong season.”
Blancpain Endurance Cup Rd5 Nurburgring result:
1. GRT Grasser Racing – Lamborghni Huracan (Christian Engelhart/Rolf Ineichen/Mirko Bortolotti)
2. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT – Audi R8 (Laurens Vanthoor/Dries Vanthoor/Frederic Vervisch)
3. Nissan GT Academy Team RJN – Nissan GT-R NISMO (Alex Buncombe/Mitsunori Takaboshi/Lucas Ordonez)
26. Oman Racing Team – Aston Martin V12 (Ahmad Al Harthy/Jonny Adam/Devon Modell)
Blancpain Endurance Cup Rd5 Nurburgring Pro-Am result:
1. Black Pearl Racing – Ferrari 458 Italia (Alexander Mattschull/Steve Parrow/Daniel Keilwitz)
2. Kessel Racing – Ferrari 488 (Andrea Rizzoli/Michael Broniszewski/Alessandro Bonacini)
3. ISR – Audi R8 (Philippe Giauque/Henry Hassid/Franck Perera)
8. Oman Racing Team – Aston Martin V12 (Ahmad Al Harthy/Jonny Adam/Devon Modell)
2016 Blancpain Endurance Cup Pro-Am driver standings (after Rd5):
4. Ahmad Al Harthy/Jonny Adam/Devon Modell, 53 pts
2016 Blancpain Endurance Cup Pro-Am team standings (after Rd5):
5. Oman Racing Team powered by Motorbase, 53 pts