* Ahmad, Charlie and Giacomo take P3 in Spain
* Al Harthy dedicates podium to people of Oman
* Aston Martin racer concludes European season
BARCELONA: Oman’s Ahmad al Harthy celebrated a sensational Pro-Am podium finish during the final race of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup season in Spain on Sunday with an outstanding drive to third place during a challenging three-hour encounter.
Dedicating the hard-earned and very emotional success to the people of Oman, who suffered terrible devastation last week when tropical cyclone Shaheen made landfall across the northern coast of the Sultanate, Al Harthy said the top three finish was the equivalent of a race win.
Starting the race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya from eighth in the Pro-Am class, Al Harthy took the opening one-hour stint and delivered an excellent fault-free drive before handing over the No 97 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 to Italian team-mate Giacomo Petrobelli. Aston Martin factory driver Charlie Eastwood took the final stint and stormed through to a fantastic podium.
“What an unbelievable result, I’m so happy”, said Al Harthy, “I’m extremely delighted to have this podium result, it really feels like a win as it was a very tough race weekend. I’m really proud to see the Omani flag flying here in Barcelona, especially after such tough times back home in Oman with the devastation of the cyclone last week. Our sincerest thoughts are with everyone affected.
“This is a beautiful way to end this part of the season for Oman Racing and a huge thank you to everyone who makes this happen, the team and everyone back home who shows us such incredible support. I hope this podium can go some way in helping to lift everyone’s spirits in Oman.”
Focusing on preparing as well as possible in testing on October 8, and again during the track sessions on October 9, Oman Racing concluded the official free practice second in Pro-Am and an excellent 11th overall before finishing fifth in Pro-Am in pre-qualifying.
Final qualifying on Sunday morning wasn’t quite what the team wanted with the eighth fastest time in Pro-Am, but Al Harthy had confidence he and his team-mates would make progress in race trim during the big race.
Al Harthy lined-up for the start in the Omantel, OQ and Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth liveried Aston Martin and climbed into seventh in Pro-Am on the first lap before taking sixth in class on lap two. Following a brief early Safety Car period, racing resumed on lap eight and the Omani continued his fantastic ascent up the order.
Within just a handful of laps, the double Pro-Am Champion had taken fifth and then fourth before breaking into the class top three. Although shuffled back to fourth place by the Ferrari of Manuel Lauck during the second half of his stint, Al Harthy remained right with his rival before making the first pit-stop close to the end of hour one.
Petrobelli took over the Oman Racing car for the second hour and when the order had settled he was fourth in Pro-Am. Maintaining position throughout his stint, just before the end of hour two he pitted and Eastwood climbed aboard the Aston Martin.
With 55 minutes to run the Northern Irishman was fifth in Pro-Am and he closed down the gap to the cars ahead. Moving into fourth ahead of a Full Course Yellow period, Eastwood was just a few tenths adrift of the class podium with 30 minutes to go.
Less than 10 minutes later he passed the Ferrari of Chris Froggatt to take third place and after another yellow flag period late on he closed on the Lamborghini of Henrique Chaves, finishing the race a mere 0.4 seconds shy of second position.
“It was such a tough and competitive grid, for sure teamwork was the thing which helped us achieve this amazing result”, reflected Al Harthy, “As a car we struggled, but as a team we didn’t and that was something amazing. Everyone kept out of trouble and did a fantastic stint. I was so happy with the first hour, it was very difficult and so I was glad to stay out of trouble and put us in contention.”
Of the two GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup contests Oman Racing has contested this year, the team achieved fifth in Pro-Am at the Nurburgring in Germany last month before returning to the podium in Barcelona, Spain, this weekend.
Al Harthy and Eastwood were race winners in the Intelligent Money British GT Championship back in August at Snetterton in England, and Al Harthy was a second place finisher with Michael Dinan in the ‘Road To Le Mans’ in France a week later. At the beginning of the year, Al Harthy and Oman Racing debuted in the Asian Le Mans Series and achieved a best result of fourth position in the GT class.