MUSCAT: Oman Racing’s Ahmad Al Harthy confirmed on Wednesday that he will be making a very welcome and long overdue return to action in the high-profile Asian Le Mans Series when the condensed and rescheduled Far East championship begins at the start of 2021.
Since announcing his entry into the British GT Championship back in February, the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic completely changed everything for Al Harthy and the Oman Racing squad and the resulting ‘lockdown’ restrictions meant the planned British GT title bid couldn’t take place.
Working tirelessly behind the scenes during the past few months, along with Tom Ferrier’s TF Sport team which prepares and engineers the Oman Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 car, Al Harthy has been able to put together the programme in the forthcoming Asian Le Mans Series.
Retaining the steadfast support of long-term backers Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, National Bank of Oman, Omantel and Barr Al Jissah, double Blancpain Endurance Cup Pro-Am Champion Al Harthy cannot wait for the new challenge – especially with the prize of an entry into the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours up for grabs to the GT3 class champion.
“Due to the COVID-19 situation globally, and the various travel restrictions, we had to re-look at our plans, make some difficult decisions and consider the next step – and the most appropriate thing for us to do was to look ahead to racing in the Asian Le Mans Series”, explained Al Harthy, “We’ve never had the chance to race in the championship before. Sometimes with problems come opportunities.
“For us this really is a huge opportunity to be part of a very well-known championship – and the prize of an entry to the Le Mans 24 Hours next year is in the back of all our minds! As we always do, everyone at Oman Racing will be going all-out to try and win.”
Successful Al Harthy and Adam partnership continues
With his sights on nothing less than GT3 championship success in the Asian Le Mans Series, Al Harthy has the tremendous continuity of teaming with Aston Martin works driver Jonny Adam – with whom he claimed both his Blancpain titles – and young British talent Tom Canning.
As a result of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, organisers of the Asian Le Mans Series took the decision to move the new campaign to the start of 2021 and also put together a calendar of a quartet of four-hour races over just a three-week window in January.
Taking into consideration the need to keep costs as low as possible, in view of the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, organisers have also factored in the length of time it will take teams to ship cars to the Far East and also any potential travel restrictions.
The end result is a series which will begin on Saturday, 9th January, at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand, with a second four-hour race at the same track just two days later on Monday, 11th January. Drivers and teams will then travel to Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia for round three on Saturday, 23rd January, and round four on Tuesday, 26th January.
Before then, Al Harthy and Oman Racing will be boosting preparations for a return to competitive action and the Muscat driver suggests some one-off outings in European based categories may well be on the cards in the coming months.
“I’m delighted to be teaming with Tom [Canning] and, of course, Jonny”, said Al Harthy, “Jonny and I have won so much together, I really think all three of us make a very strong line-up for the Asian Le Mans Series. If things work out well in Europe with less restrictions on travel in the weeks and months to come, we’ll probably do some one-off races as well. Watch this space.
“Although we’ve been away from the track for quite a while now, since the pre-season British GT test in March, I’ve been working hard to keep fit and motivated, and I’ve been concentrating on the world of motorsport a lot. I’m really looking forward to being back and doing what we do best!”
2021 Asian Le Mans Series Calendar
Rd1 – Chang International Circuit, Thailand (4hr race) – 9th January, 2021
Rd2 – Chang International Circuit, Thailand (4hr race) – 11th January, 2021
Rd3 – Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia (4hr race) – 23rd January, 2021
Rd4 – Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia (4hr race) – 26th January, 2021