Muscat: Ahmad al Harthy’s maiden season in the ultra-competitive ‘Silver Cup’ category of the world renowned Blancpain Endurance Cup reaches its conclusion this coming weekend, September 29-30, at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.
Some two months since the championship was last in action for the blue riband Total 24 Hours of Spa at the end of July, where Al Harthy and the Oman Racing team experienced a luckless retirement just three hours into the encounter, the squad is determined to end 2018 on a real high.
Heading into this season as the reigning Pro-Am champion, Muscat driver Al Harthy’s grading had to be elevated from ‘Bronze’ to ‘Silver’ as a result and so the step up the ladder into the even more hotly contested class duly followed.
Making a strong and consistent start to the campaign, at Monza in Italy back in April, with a top five finish alongside new team-mates Euan McKay and Charlie Eastwood, during round two at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in the UK a maiden Silver Cup podium was in the offing until late in the race.
After qualifying a season-best third quickest, the trio performed superbly in the three-hour contest and held a top three placing with just 45 minutes to go. Then, though, an unfortunate tangle for Eastwood and a rival Lamborghini resulted in an urgent pit-stop and an eventual finish of fifth.
Just missing the podium once again in the six-hour third round at Paul Ricard in France, the Oman Racing entry did secure a best-yet top four finish. Unfortunately, though, the consistently strong run of results came to an end at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium with irreparable damage incurred for the No 97 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 after an excursion into the barriers for McKay.
Despite the disappointment of the previous round, Al Harthy is only looking forward to the fifth and final race of the Blancpain season at the Circuit de Catalunya where the Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Oman Air, National Bank of Oman, Omantel, Barr Al Jissah and Amouage-backed driver can theoretically challenge for a top four championship finish.
While this would require some major misfortune for Oman Racing’s chief rivals, anything can happen in the Blancpain Endurance Cup and the Silver Cup battle during this coming Sunday’s three-hour race is set to be a fascinating one. As things stand, only seven points separate eighth placed Al Harthy, Eastwood and McKay from the top six in the standings.
“Our first season in the Silver Cup, was always going to be a major challenge but I’m happy with what we’ve achieved so far — everyone at Oman Racing has worked so hard”, said Al Harthy, “It has been a year of mixed fortunes out on the track, we’ve certainly experienced some bad luck along the way, but we’ve been competitive from the start and the podium has been getting closer and closer.
“It would be fantastic to end the season back on the Blancpain podium and we’re all striving to make that a possibility in Barcelona at the weekend. We know we have the team, the car and the capability to do it if everything goes to plan, and that’s what we’re determined to achieve for all of our incredible sponsors and supporters.”
Free practice at the Circuit de Catalunya will begin the weekend’s action for Al Harthy at 09.00 (local time) on Saturday, September 29, with pre-qualifying following at 16.45 (local time). On Sunday, September 30, final qualifying will take place at 09.00 (local time) with the big race set to begin at 15.00 (local time).