Muscat – Aston Martin Vantage GTE racer Ahmad al Harthy had to settle for a top 12 placing in FIA World Endurance Championship qualifying at Fuji in Japan on Saturday, after a drying session which had initially looked incredibly promising for Oman Racing with TF Sport.
While expecting a tough and competitive battle throughout, the choice to run with slick Michelin tyres on the initially wet track proved to be the correct one. As Fuji Speedway dried more and more though, Al Harthy’s early session timesheet-topping performance couldn’t be sustained as the life of the tyres ebbed away.
“It was a drying track and we opted to go out with slicks, which was the right call, but I think I maybe pushed too much on the first three laps. For 60 percent of the session we were P1, but as the track became a lot quicker our tyre pressures were going high and so we lost performance and lost the window. Only 0.5 seconds would move us from where we are into the top three, so it shows how competitive it was. Had the session ended five minutes earlier, I’m sure we would have been pole,” said Al Harthy.
“Looking at data and studying for tomorrow, I think we should be able to have a stronger race and a better performance overall. I’m looking forward to the 6 Hours of Fuji and pushing from the very first lap to see what we can achieve. It’s our first time here, weather conditions have been changing so much with storms, so I think in the race we will need to be in the right place at the right time. We will focus as always and hopefully have a strong car.”
Setting the pace with his first flying lap, a time of 1m43.517seconds, the Omani – on his first visit to the world-famous Japanese track – improved markedly the next time around to 1m40.128 seconds and stayed on provisional pole, but by a reduced margin of 0.171 seconds.
Taking another half second off his best on his third flyer, Al Harthy remained on pole momentarily but was then edged back to third. With six minutes to go in the session only half a second covered the top six runners.
He responded with his best of the session, a time of 1m39.344seconds to retake pole, but that was the most he could extract out of the car and the Michelin tyres and was ultimately edged back to 12th position and a sixth row start for the big race, the penultimate round of the FIA WEC season.
Al Harthy, who is supported by key partners Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, OQ, Omantel and MHD-ITICS, is determined to try and make progress in the weekend’s race – his first around Fuji Speedway – and will be challenging as hard as he can along with team-mates Michael Dinan and Charlie Eastwood.
The 6 Hours of Fuji – which can be followed live at www.fiawec.com – will get underway at 11 am local time on Sunday which means an early start for fans in Oman with the action beginning at 6 am in the Sultanate.