Muscat – Oman’s number one racing driver Ahmad Al Harthy watched his hopes of a glorious conclusion to his debut year in the FIA World Endurance Championship disappear during the closing stages of the season finale in Bahrain on Saturday after an engine failure ended his major podium push.
Al Harthy, a two-time GTE Am podium finisher in his maiden WEC campaign along with Oman Racing with TF Sport team-mates Michael Dinan and Charlie Eastwood, got things off to a very strong start in the eight-hour contest with an impressive opening stint.
Having qualified the No.25 Aston Martin Vantage GTE an excellent third fastest on Friday, the Omani started the final race of the season for the team and was as quick and competitive as always.
Although having the knock-back of needing to err on the side of caution at the beginning, in order to avoid a tangle between LMP2 prototype Hypercar runners ahead, Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, OQ, Omantel and MHD-ITICS supported racer Al Harthy recovered the lost ground very impressively with a faultless drive around the Sakhir track.
Dropping to eighth as a result of the delay, he charged back through and delivered a masterclass in overtaking to pass car after car in the GTE Am class. Storming back through toward the podium placings in the opening hour, after handing over the Aston Martin to Dinan the progress continued.
Back behind the wheel in hour three, Al Harthy ran a comfortable third and all looked well placed for a potential podium finish. Dinan returned to the car midway through the race, before Eastwood got behind the wheel for a triple stint to conclude the Middle East encounter.
Holding fifth with over two hours to go, Eastwood was back into fourth with more than 90 minutes on the clock and within little more than 25 seconds of the podium. Pushing on, with half an hour to go the gap was down to 18 seconds and silverware looked a distinct prospect. Shortly after, though, the challenge came to a devastating end – the engine giving way and leading to instant retirement.
While, ultimately, a disappointing end to the FIA World Endurance Championship for Al Harthy and Oman Racing with TF Sport, the drivers conclude a very impressive maiden season together in WEC a creditable fifth in the GTE Am driver standings with the squad also fifth in the team points table.
“It’s a very difficult way to end the season, unfortunately we lost the engine in the last 20 minutes of the race – we were catching and the podium was there to be fair. Charlie was driving an amazing triple stint at the end to see us closing the gap to P3,” said Al Harthy.
“I had a good start to the race but, unfortunately, the incident in front between some LMP2 and the Hypercars caused me to be cautious and we were down to P8 I think. The most important thing then was for me to try and catch up, and I was really happy with the way I did that by overtaking so many cars in the fastest period of time I could to make sure we were chasing P2.
“We had an interesting strategy, which we had to run for the sake of the pace, but at the end of the day it’s all about driver development and my performance. I was really happy with how it went, we performed well and did the absolute best we could.
“I really want to thank the Omani Ambassador to Bahrain, HE Sayyid Faisal bin Hareb bin Hamad Al Busaidi, for coming to the race with us, all the sponsors from Oman who attended the final event of the season to support us and so many friends and family too – with us and back home in Oman as well.
“The support this year has been unbelievable, it’s an historic year for Oman and an historic year for me. Being part ofWEC for 2023 has allowed us to race in Le Mans for the 100th year of that race, it’s actually very emotional summing it all up. We competed at the maximum capacity in every race, and now we focus on what comes next. I’m very proud of all we’ve achieved together this year.”