Abu Dhabi: Excellent pace, first class race-craft and an all-round great performance ensured Ahmad Al Harthy and Oman Racing wrapped-up the 2021 Asian Le Mans Series with a season-best fourth place GT Class finish during an exciting final race of the campaign in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, February 20.
As during Friday’s third round at Yas Marina Circuit, Al Harthy and team-mates Tom Canning and Jonny Adam were in contention for a dream podium result and ultimately just missed out, after four hours of incredible action, by a mere 3.5 seconds.
Even so, the top four result was a fantastic way for Oman Racing to conclude its maiden campaign in the ultra-competitive Asian Le Mans Series and gives Al Harthy a major boost at the beginning of the 2021 motor racing year.
“We really tried to capitalise on everything possible and we knew everyone was on different strategies, P4 was the maximum we could get out of the car and we’re happy with it”, said Oman’s number one racing driver, “It’s great to end the series with our strongest drives, both in Friday’s race and the finale on Saturday.
“My stint was very good again. I had a good amount of clean, uninterrupted racing which was great for me and we pushed as hard as we could. It’s great for us to have been so very close to the podium in the final ALMS race and it’s always an honour and pleasure for me to represent Oman in these big international championships. We look forward to continuing to do that!”
Starting the season finale from eighth on the GT class grid, Canning took the first stint of the race and maintained position early on before moving up into seventh place. Into the top six with around 10 minutes elapsed, the Safety Car then appeared moments later due to an incident.
Racing resumed after another 10 minutes or so, with Canning holding sixth, but at the half-hour mark the Safety Car was required again after a heavy accident involving two cars. Teams took the opportunity to serve pit-stops during the lengthy second cautionary period and when all had shaken out, Canning was up into third in class and the outright top 10.
Just after the end of the opening hour the competitors were unleashed again and Canning climbed into second in GT ahead of a Full Course Yellow period 80 minutes into the race. The young Briton then pitted shortly after to hand over the No.97 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 to Al Harthy.
Running fifth in class when everything settled, the Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, National Bank of Oman, Omantel and Barr Al Jissah supported driver took fourth around 25 minutes into his stint and then moved into the podium placings a couple of laps later.
Driving faultlessly as the race reached the halfway point and dusk began to set-in, Al Harthy was still third and running brilliantly. Soon climbing into second in GT, Al Harthy took the class lead with one hour and 45 minutes to go when the McLaren 720S ahead pitted.
Circulating a couple of seconds clear of the No.99 Porsche 911, the Omani reeled off lap after lap without putting a wheel wrong and with just 90 minutes to run he was still inside the overall top 10 and well over 40 seconds clear of his closest class rival.
After an outstanding stint, Al Harthy pitted with roughly one hour and 25 minutes left on the clock to hand over to Adam from the lead. Threading into the race seventh in GT, the Aston Martin factory driver had risen to fourth with an hour remaining and was less than six seconds shy of the podium.
Nearing the final half-hour, two rivals ahead – including the class leading McLaren – made stops and so the No.97 Aston Martin moved up into second with a real grandstand finish in prospect. The leading Porsche of Robert Renauer pitted with just over 20 minutes to go, but Mikkel Jensen’s F488 Ferrari managed to get ahead of Adam too, so the Oman Racing car stayed second.
With a late ‘splash and dash’ fuel stop required, Adam entered the pits for the final time with 10 minutes to go and rejoined in fifth but less than two seconds away from the podium battle. Into the final five minutes Adam had caught the group, and on the ante-penultimate lap he took fourth from Renauer. At the flag after four hours, Adam was just 3.5 seconds shy of the rostrum and 16th overall.