BELGIUM: Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, venue for the 71st edition of the Total 24 Hours of Spa later this month, welcomed Oman Racing and the squad’s Blancpain Endurance Cup rivals this week for the event’s annual two-day test, where the Aston Martin team more than confirmed its star credentials.
Oman’s Ahmad Al Harthy departed the legendary track feeling extremely pleased with the pace produced during no less than 16 hours of testing across Tuesday, 2nd July, and Wednesday, 3rd July, and also with the variety of work completed for qualifying and race trim.
Joined by regular team-mates Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc, and squad newcomer Nicki Thiim who will form part of the entry’s expanded four driver line-up for the twice-round-the-clock race at the end of July, Al Harthy says Oman Racing is as well prepared as it possibly could be.
“We enjoyed a very good and productive test over the last two days at Spa, working on many things ahead of the 24 hours later this month”, he commented, “It was very encouraging to see we had the pace to lead both days in Pro-Am, and we’re all looking forward to hopefully doing the same again during the race weekend.”
In the opening three-hour session on Tuesday morning, the No.97 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 topped the Pro-Am class times with a best lap of 2m20.248 seconds. The National Bank of Oman, Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Omantel and Barr Al Jissah backed squad then delivered the third fastest time in the afternoon’s lengthy five-hour session, a lap of 2m20.791 seconds.
On Wednesday, Oman Racing ended the morning’s run with a time of 2m20.996 seconds which places the team sixth in Pro-Am at that point. During the final run of the test during the afternoon, though, the squad topped the Pro-Am times once again with its fastest effort of the two days, a lap of 2m19.927 seconds (180.197 km/h average), which was also 11th in the overall classification.
Going into the huge 24 hour race three weeks from now, Al Harthy, Eastwood and Yoluc currently lead the championship standings in Pro-Am and take an unbroken run of three back-to-back podium finishes into the fourth round of the 2019 season.
Finishing on the podium with third at Monza in Italy before taking a season-best second during round two at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in the UK, last time out the TF Sport-prepared Aston Martin crew claimed third in Pro-Am again in the six-hour Paul Ricard race in France.
Spa, of course, brings a challenge like no other in global GT3 racing and after such a successful couple of days at the world-famous track, Al Harthy cannot wait to return to the Ardennes to mount a strong bid for more Blancpain silverware as he strives to add to the Pro-Am crown he won in 2017.
“We know how incredibly tough the Total 24 Hours of Spa is having been part of this huge event for many years now”, added Al Harthy, “It’s been a fantastic season so far though for Oman Racing, and after such a strong two-day test we are all determined to battle for another podium and keep our championship firmly on track.”
All of the build-up for the Total 24 Hours of Spa begins on Monday, 22nd July, with the first ‘Bronze’ test session following on Tuesday, 23rd July. On Wednesday, 24th July, competitors will participate in the annual parade into Spa town centre with their race cars before returning to track action on Thursday, 25th July, for free practice, pre-qualifying and night-time practice.
On Friday, 26th July, the final ‘Superpole’ session will take place at 18.30 (local time) with the big 24 hour race itself set to begin at 16.30 (local time) on Saturday, 27th July.
2019 Blancpain Endurance Cup ‘Pro-Am’ Driver Standings:
1st Ahmad Al Harthy/Charlie Eastwood/Salih Yoluc, 54pts
2019 Blancpain Endurance Cup ‘Pro-Am’ Team Standings:
2nd Oman Racing, 54pts