Muscat racing driver Ahmad Al Harthy almost celebrated his and Oman Racing’s first ‘Silver Cup’ podium finish in the Blancpain Endurance Cup during round two of the season at Silverstone on Sunday, 20th May – until late race contact robbed the team of richly deserved silverware.
Up until the final 45 minutes of the three-hour encounter at the famous British track, everything had gone pretty much to plan for Al Harthy and team-mates Euan McKay and Charlie Eastwood and a top three result was there for the taking.
Approaching the last half-hour of the final stint, though, Eastwood was involved in contact with a rival Lamborghini and the damage sustained to the No.97 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 required an urgent pit visit. Losing a significant chunk of time as a result, and dropping from third to sixth place, the Oman Racing entry eventually ended the encounter fifth in the Silver Cup.
“We showed this weekend we could be on the podium, we were fighting for a very good podium finish with less than 45 minutes to go”, said reigning Pro-Am Champion Al Harthy, “I don’t know what happened in Charlie’s stint, there was some kind of incident and the car had to come in. Once you have to make a stop like that in this championship, it’s very difficult to do anything after that.
“Our pace throughout the race was strong. In my session it was very busy, I had to keep out of trouble to make sure I gave the best car I could to my team-mates. Euan did a really great job in his stint, Charlie was going well too but then there was the incident which was very unfortunate. We’re showing our speed, now we need to put it all together for that podium we want so much.”
In final qualifying on Sunday morning, Al Harthy took the first of three sessions and produced a best time of 1m58.771 seconds which was secured before a late red flag stoppage due to a car off the circuit. For session two, McKay got behind the wheel of the Aston Martin and lapped with a best of 1m57.840 seconds – the fastest Silver Cup competitor at that point.
Eastwood then took the third session and delivered a time just a fraction better than the one McKay managed, a lap of 1m57.834 seconds. Taking the best average from the three drivers, they ended qualifying third quickest in Silver and just 0.5 seconds shy of the class pole.
Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Oman Air, National Bank of Oman, Omantel, Barr Al Jissah and Amouage-backed racer Al Harthy took the first stint of the three-hour race from an elevated second in Silver, due to a penalty for a rival, and everything went well early on.
Although edged back to fifth in Silver during a very busy first few laps, the Omani concentrated on keeping everything clean and tidy and was mindful of looking after the Aston Martin with a long race ahead. Slipping to sixth at around the half-hour mark, he soon hit back and re-passed the Nissan NISMO GT-R of Struan Moore.
Climbing into the top four as the end of the opening hour neared, Al Harthy also pulled well clear of the Nissan and he went on to move into third as pit-stops began to be served before also making the team’s first pit visit of the contest.
McKay climbed behind the wheel and threaded back into the race in sixth position before making significant progress and producing some very impressive lap times. Taking fifth and then fourth in fairly quick succession, McKay was right behind the third placed Lamborghini of Sandy Mitchell midway through the stint and the Aston went through around 15 minutes later.
Running 4.5 seconds shy of second place as the second pit-window neared, McKay stayed out on track and moved through into the lead of Silver as others pitted. When he stopped with 55 minutes to go, Eastwood took over and joined the race in third position.
Posting very similar lap times to the second placed Lamborghini of Martin Kodric, with only 35 minutes to go a tangle with another of the Lamborghinis resulted in damage to the Aston Martin. After pitting for repairs, and then serving a drive-through penalty having been deemed at fault for the incident by officials, Eastwood joined in sixth place and eventually finished the race in fifth.
There are less than two weeks to wait until the third round of the Blancpain Endurance Cup season, the annual 1,000km ‘into the night’ race at Paul Ricard in southern France, on Saturday, 2nd June.
Provisional Blancpain Endurance Cup Rd2 Silverstone GP Result:
1st R-Motorsport – Aston Martin V2 Vantage GT3
(Matthieu Vaxiviere/Jake Dennis/Nicki Thiim)
2nd Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP – Mercedes-AMG GT3
(Tristan Vautier/Adam Christodoulou/Raffaele Marciello)
3rd Emil Frey Lexus Racing – Lexus RC F GT3
(Markus Palttala/Stephane Ortelli/Norbert Siedler)
39th Oman Racing – Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3
(Ahmad Al Harthy/Euan McKay/Charlie Eastwood)
Blancpain Endurance Cup Rd2 Silverstone GP ‘Silver Cup’ Result:
1st Black Falcon – Mercedes-AMG GT3
(Hubert Haupt/Gabriele Piana/Abdulaziz Al Faisal)
2nd Reiter Young Stars – Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX
(Mads Siljehaug/Lenny Marioneck; Patric Niederhauser)
3rd GT Sport MOTUL Team RJN – Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3
5th Oman Racing – Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3
(Ahmad Al Harthy/Euan McKay/Charlie Eastwood)