Barcelona, Spain – Mid-race contact during round four of the European Le Mans Series at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Sunday ruined realistic hopes of an LMGTE podium return for Ahmad Al Harthy and Oman Racing and they had to settle for a frustrating 10th position.
There were high hopes for a competitive challenge at the front after Al Harthy qualified the No.69 Aston Martin Vantage LMGTE in pole position with a superb performance on Saturday before the damage in hour two of the race.
Al Harthy took the start of the race but the action fell under Safety Car conditions very quickly following an incident involving an LMGTE Ferrari and two LMP3 prototypes. After having to avoid the troubles, Al Harthy was shuffled back to second behind the No.77 Porsche of Christian Ried.
Racing got back underway on lap six, with 15 minutes elapsed, and Al Harthy made his intent clear immediately by piling pressure on his rival. Swarming all over the Porsche, the Oman Racing driver pushed hard to try and regain the lead and into lap 10 he positioned himself for an attack.
Further around the lap, Al Harthy went for the move on the brakes into Turn 10 but unfortunately ran a bit deep. Although able to avoid entering the gravel trap, he did slip to third behind the No.93 Porsche of Michael Fassbender. Though Giacomo Petrobelli in the No.66 Ferrari also passed the Aston Martin, with some contact, Al Harthy was able to sweep through into second place a couple of laps later when the Italian tagged Fassbender.
Into hour two of his double-stint, Al Harthy remained ahead of Petrobelli and the Omani then made his first pit-stop of the race a few moments later to take fresh tyres. When the race order settled again Al Harthy was third in LMGTE and swarming all over the No.57 Ferrari with improved pace. Although able to get through, subsequent contact led to big damage for the Aston Martin.
Making an unscheduled second pit-stop around one hour and 20 minutes into the race, the TF Sport mechanics who look after the Oman Racing car did a great job to facilitate a repair to the front-right and fit fresh tyres before Al Harthy re-joined the race – albeit in 10th position and three laps down.
He went on to conclude his eventful double stint around mid-distance, with De Haan climbing behind the wheel for hour three. De Haan did all he could before Sorensen took over the car for the final hour and the run to the chequered flag – taking the finish in 10th place in LMGTE.
“It’s unfortunate how things played out. We had to avoid the first corner troubles, and then I was behind the Porsche (Christian Ried),” said Al Harthy.
“It was always going to be difficult with the high degradation on the tyres but things opened up when we were able to regain second position, after the incident between Petrobelli and Fassbender. But that’s when we had real traction issues.
“Our degradation was higher than the rest of our competitors, then we got new tyres at the pit stop and had the pace. Unfortunately, one of our competitors was just too defensive and it resulted in contact. After that and the repairs, the plan was just to finish the race and get some points. These are the highs and lows of racing but hopefully Spa will be better for the Aston.”
Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps, which hosted the FIA Formula One World Championship this weekend, will be the venue for the fifth round of the European Le Mans Series on September 24 and 25.