Muscat – First-year FIA World Endurance Championship racer Ahmad al Harthy produced a top-notch performance at Monza in Italy on Saturday to secure a front-row start for the fifth round of the 2023 season.
Aiming to bid for a third successive GTE Am podium with Oman Racing with TF Sport team-mates Michael Dinan and Charlie Eastwood in today’s 6 Hours of Monza, the squad will have a tough challenge to match the top speed of the rival Ferraris and Porsches. Al Harthy’s stand-out qualifying though in the grid-determining run has brought a lot of positivity.
Starting off the Monza weekend steadily with the usual focus on delivering the best car possible for qualifying and the race, the Oman Racing entry was the 11th fastest in the two free practice sessions on Friday and was then an improved ninth in free practice three on Saturday morning.
Al Harthy took the reins of the No.25 Aston Martin Vantage for the subsequent 15-minute qualifying session and after the first flying laps were in the book the Omani was fourth on the timesheets, an initial effort of 1m51.848s.
He then smashed that the next time around to shoot onto GTE Am pole with an excellent lap of 1m48.545 seconds, half a second clear of his closest challenger, and it proved a timely attempt as well with the session halted by a red flag stoppage mere moments later.
Qualifying resumed with just under eight minutes left on the clock and the Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, OQ, Omantel and MHD-ITICS supported racer set about trying to improve yet further on a new set of Michelin tyres.
On his first flying lap of the re-start Al Harthy circulated in 1m49.244 seconds, before then delivering a session best of 1m48.058 seconds on his penultimate run – moving him back up to second fastest and within 0.4 seconds of pole, where he would stay.
Ahead of the fifth race of the FIA WEC campaign, the Oman Racing drivers are second in the GTE Am Championship standings and the team itself is second in the Team Championship. After a historic second-place finish at last month’s 24H Le Mans in France, and taking third in round three at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium prior to that, Oman Racing would relish the chance to keep the run going.
“I’m really delighted with qualifying, it was the absolute best we could achieve as a package here at Monza. From FP1 we knew we didn’t have the strongest package around this circuit, so to get P2 in qualifying is amazing. I’m really happy with my performance and equally happy with all the teamwork which has been put in for us to achieve this together,” said Al Harthy.
“We worked a lot to find the best qualifying set-up and with the session being interrupted with the red flag, it was a good strategy to take on new tyres then and go for it again. Thankfully we got a front-row start, but it’s going to be much, much tougher in the race. The speed of the Porsches and Ferraris is very, very strong so we will focus on our normal strategy and do the best we can.”