Saturday, September 25
04:05 PM

Dream debut

18 Oct 2020 By ASHOK PUROHIT

Oman Racing Team with TF Sport duo of Ahmad al Harthy and Tom Canning clinch Pro-Am title  and also secure overall podium finish in opening race of International GT Open at Spa

Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium has been one of the favourite tracks for Oman’s Ahmad al Harthy. The 39 year old driver achieved his ‘biggest win of his career’ last year when he took the Pro-Am title at the annual Total 24 Hours of Spa in the Blancpain Endurance Cup.

It has been 14 months since the epic win but Spa remains the venue as Ahmad achieves for more career milestones. 

On Saturday, it was yet another stellar win for the Oman Racing with TF Sport driver, as he along with his teammate, Tom Canning, clinched the Pro-Am title and finished third overall on their debut in the opening round of the International GT Open Championship on Saturday.

Speaking to Muscat Daily after his win last year in July, Ahmad had said that ‘Spa is one of my favourite tracks’ and ‘the win at the Total 24 Hours of Spa is my biggest so far.’ 

His liking for the track at Spa was evident, yet again, as he and Canning came up with a sensational debut display.

“It is a dream debut for us,” remarked Ahmad on Saturday after his second stint behind the wheels complimented Canning’s superb first run for them to claim an overall podium and class honours in the five-round GT Open championship.

Ahmad was returning to racing for the first time since last September but showed no signs of rustiness as he took to the wheels in the 70-minute race after Canning had bagged a class pole and overall second spot in the qualification. 

“It is an amazing result,” said Ahmad. “I’m so proud of everybody, the guys at TF Sport and the amazing job Tom 

[Canning] did in qualifying and the hard work so many people have put in behind the scenes to enable us to be here this weekend at Spa. 

“I want to say a massive thank you to everyone.

“It really was a great race. Tom had a solid stint and when I got into the car, the focus was to put our head down, concentrate as hard as we could and race well. It felt so good to be back and I’m so proud we were able to be this competitive after being away so long. To take the Pro-Am win, and a double podium is honestly, amazing.”

Canning took driving duties for the race one qualifying session on Saturday morning and delivered a solid performance. 

He was third fastest overall when the session was red flagged with just under ten minutes remaining. After the resumption, the Briton pumped in quicker and quicker times.

He ended the session second overall with a lap of 2m14.783 seconds (187.0 km/h), just 0.178 seconds shy of the outright pole position but secured a memorable Pro-Am pole.

Starting the afternoon’s race, Canning was edged back to third into La Source and after being held wide on the exit, the lost momentum dropped him to fifth overall and third in Pro-Am class.

With around 40 minutes remaining, the mandatory driver change pit-stops started but Canning stayed on track and moved up into third overall. He eventually pitted at the end of lap 18 to hand over the Aston Martin car to Ahmad. Joining the race with around half an hour on the clock, the Omani ace driver held third in Pro-Am and fifth place overall. 

Ahmad quickly climbed to fourth on lap 19 and on lap 22 produced a beautiful pass around the outside into the Bus Stop to brilliantly take the Pro-Am lead. Running in third overall, Ahmad managed to stave off any further danger to clinch the class honours with a last-lap overtake.

Louis Prette and Vincent Abril of AF Corse APM Monaco Ferrari 488 won the overall race title while TMM McLaren’s Miguel Ramos-Henrique Chaves came second. Valentin Pierburg and Nicholas Foster (SPS Automotive Mercedes) and Brendan Iribe and Ollie Millroy (Optimum Motorsport McLaren) rounded off the Pro-Am podium.

 

© 2021 Apex Press and Publishing. All Rights Reserved.