BARCELONA: Oman Racing’s Ahmad al Harthy made yet more motor racing history at the Circuit de Barcelona in Spain on Sunday after wrapping-up his second Pro-Am class championship crown in the world-renowned Blancpain Endurance Cup.
Marking the perfect end to an absolutely sensational 2019 season for the Muscat sportsman and team-mates Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc, the trio steered the No.97 Aston Martin Vantage to a hard-earned second place in Pro-Am during Sunday’s three-hour race to win the title by 34 points.
Leading the Pro-Am standings by 16 points going into the final event of the campaign, success was far from guaranteed in an encounter which was completely unpredictable and packed with incident throughout after a lengthy Safety Car period early on which lasted around 50 minutes.
At one stage the championship looked to be slipping from Oman Racing’s grasp, but superb stints from Al Harthy and Eastwood in hours two and three enabled the TF Sport-engineered entry to take a memorable and history-making second crown in GT3 racing’s biggest and best championship.
Of course, second position in Barcelona also meant Al Harthy and his team-mates conclude the year with an unbroken run of five podiums from five endurance races with the pinnacle, of course, having been a maiden Total 24 Hours of Spa Pro-Am race victory in July in the National Bank of Oman, Ministry of Sports Affairs, Omantel and Barr Al Jissah supported Aston Martin.
“What an amazing feeling — we did it!”, said an ecstatic Al Harthy after the race, “We had to do it the hard way, it’s really hard to race at Barcelona, but the whole team did an amazing job. We knew if we had a clean race and stayed away from trouble, and had good momentum, we could do it.
“To not just win the championship but to have a full streak of podiums, it’s amazing and I’m absolutely delighted and over the moon. Again, we dedicate this championship in this amazing year to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos in the 49th year of his reign in Oman and I also wish to thank Her Excellency Kefaya bint Khamis bin Myah al Raisiyah, the Omani ambassador to Spain.
“Her Excellency was there with us this weekend to share in our success and I want to thank her and all of her team in Spain. Of course, huge thanks as well to the supporters who flew in from Oman, all of the friends and family who came to watch us, and all of my incredible sponsors. The celebrations at the podium are something I won’t ever forget.”
Al Harthy underlines status as top racer
Yoluc began the three-hour encounter for Oman Racing from sixth on the Pro-Am grid, 39th position overall, but a huge accident for one of the Porsches on the opening lap – which resulted in the car flipping on its roof after heavy contact with the barriers – led to a lengthy Safety Car period.
Having been able to smartly climb through to third in Pro-Am and 29th overall prior to the enforced cautionary period, Yoluc then had to spend the next 50 minutes circulating behind the safety car at painfully slow speed. After the resumption, he had less than 10 minutes of full-speed action before pitting to hand over the Oman Racing car to Al Harthy.
Joining the race fifth in class and in 38th place overall, the 2017 Pro-Am title winner soon climbed through into the podium placings once again and within five minutes he was third in Pro-Am and into the overall top 30.
Following two Full Course Yellow cautionary periods in quick succession, with half of his stint to go Al Harthy continued to hold third in class but as the end of the second hour neared he had been edged back to fifth in Pro-Am, the Omani conscious of the need to avoid any unnecessary drama.
When a third Full Course Yellow period was declared with just over an hour to run, Al Harthy pitted and Eastwood got behind the wheel for the run to the flag. When racing resumed with 55 minutes to go, the Oman Racing car was fifth in Pro-Am and 30th overall and Eastwood had to try and make his way into the podium placings.
Then, dramatically, an accident for the class-leading Mercedes of Remon Vos meant the Pro-Am title was all but secured for Oman Racing with Eastwood moving into fourth in Pro-Am. Not finished there, he took third with 40 minutes to run and as a number of cars from the overall classification became tangled-up in a variety of incidents late on, Eastwood avoided the chaos.
Slicing through the outright order into a fantastic 16th place, he also took second in Pro-Am during the closing minutes to spark incredible celebrations and help write another piece of history for Oman Racing. Post-race, the team was elevated into 14th overall due to penalties for rivals.
“What a year, what a team!”, added the Omani, “To finish on the podium in all five endurance races in the toughest GT3 championship in the world, to have been able to achieve our first ever win in the Total 24 Hours of Spa and to win the championship for a second time is just incredible — this truly is another dream come true.”
Provisional Blancpain Endurance Cup Rd5 Barcelona Result:
1st Orange 1 FFF Racing Team – Lamborghini Huracan GT3
(Andrea Caldarelli/Marco Mapelli/Albert Costa)
2nd R-Motorsport – Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3
(Marvin Kirchhofer/Alex Lynn/Jake Dennis)
3rd Bentley Team M-Sport – Bentley Continental GT3
(Jules Gounon/Steven Kane/Jordan Pepper)
14th Oman Racing – Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3
(Ahmad al Harthy/Charlie Eastwood/Salih Yoluc)
Provisional Blancpain Endurance Cup Rd5 Barcelona ‘Pro-Am’ Result:
1st Sainteloc Racing – Audi R8 LMS GT3
(Pierre Yves Paque/Edouard Cauhaupe/Pierre-Alexandre Jean)
2nd Oman Racing – Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3)
(Ahmad al Harthy/Charlie Eastwod/Salih Yoluc)
3rd Tempesta Racing – Ferrari 488 GT3
(Chris Froggatt/Jonathan Hui/Chris Buncombe)
Final 2019 Blancpain Endurance Cup ‘Pro-Am’ Driver Standings:
CHAMPIONS:Ahmad al Harthy/Charlie Eastwood/Salih Yoluc, 122pts
Final 2019 Blancpain Endurance Cup ‘Pro-Am’ Team Standings:
CHAMPIONS:Oman Racing, 122pts