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PAUL RICARD BLANCPAIN PODIUM SLIPS FROM OMAN RACING TEAM’S GRASP AFTER SUSPENSION FAILURE

Ahmad Al Harthy and the Oman Racing Team powered by Motorbase suffered a cruel blow to their Pro-Am title aspirations in the Blancpain Endurance Cup during round three at Paul Ricard on Saturday night – suspension failure at two thirds race distance costing a near guaranteed podium.Ahmad Al Harthy Paul ricard r

On course for a richly deserved second place finish, and with a real possibility too of challenging for a maiden Pro-Am class victory, 34-year-old Omani Ahmad and British team-mates Jonny Adam and Devon Modell instead had to settle for 13th place in class at the end of six grueling hours of racing.

After faultless stints from Ahmad and Modell over the course of the opening four hours, matched by superb team-work during the pit-stops, Adam was scheduled to pilot the No.44 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 for a double-stint during the last third of the night-time encounter.

Frustratingly, just minutes into his stint and while running second in Pro-Am, the left-front wishbone component of the suspension collapsed. Adam, thankfully, managed to coax the Aston with its badly deranged front-left wheel back to the pits and the Oman Racing Team got to work.

Repairing the car as quickly as possible, the delay still cost the team in the region of half an hour meaning any hopes of a podium were gone. Doing everything he could, Adam pressed on and ended the contest at midnight 13th in Pro-Am.

“Everyone is so, so disappointed – all of the guys did such an amazing job and the podium was there for us, maybe even the Pro-Am win”, reflected a thoroughly dejected Ahmad, “Almost as soon as Jonny went out in the car, with about two hours to go, the front-left wishbone broke and that was it.

“We were looking unbelievably strong up to that point, everything had gone so well. Our strategy was perfect, the pit-stops were perfect, our driving was consistent and we made sure we stayed out of trouble. Everyone did such a great job and it was no fault of anyone – just one of those things. We have so many positives to take away to Spa though, we’ll be back even stronger.”

Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Oman Air, National Bank of Oman (NBO), Barr Al Jissah and Omantel backed driver Ahmad took the opening stint of the big six-hour race and from 10th in Pro-Am, 23rd overall on the grid, he got away cleanly at the rolling start and maintained class position.

Although several of the Pro category cars climbed through the order ahead of the Aston, the Omani held his Pro-Am placing comfortably before moving into ninth in class on lap eight. Despite being edged back to 10th again soon after, as the race reached the 40-minute mark he had reeled in the ninth placed Ferrari of Duncan Cameron and swiftly moved back into ninth.

Soon after, racing fell under a Full Course Yellow cautionary period and Ahmad took the opportunity to make the team’s first stop to hand over the car to Modell. The British driver joined the race still holding ninth in Pro-Am and racing resumed with just over an hour elapsed.

Making great progress during his double-stint, Modell was seventh in class at the point of a second Full Course Yellow period which ran for just under half an hour – due to barrier damage – and after the next stop he was ninth.

When the action got back underway Modell moved through the order into third in Pro-Am but was edged back to fourth early in the third hour. Retaking the position a short while later, Modell had climbed into 13th overall with three and a half hours of racing remaining and moved up into second in class before handing the No.44 car back to Ahmad as the race approached the halfway point.

Rejoining the track sixth in Pro-Am and 20th overall, the Omani wasted no time in getting up to speed and with the light fading he rapidly moved back through the order into second in Pro-Am and 13th overall over the course of the next 20 minutes.

Concluding a wonderfully competitive stint by breaking into the overall top 12 with two hours and 15 minutes remaining on the clock, the Aston Martin Middle East and North Africa ambassador pitted shortly after to hand the car over to Adam from second in Pro-Am.

Adam took to the track with two hours and 10 minutes remaining and held seventh place in Pro-Am, 22nd overall. As rivals served stops, in next to no time Adam was back into the top three in class and with just over two hours to go he moved into second in Pro-Am. Soon after, though, the suspension collapsed and, with it, the squad’s podium bid.

Next on the Blancpain Endurance Cup calendar is the biggest race weekend of the season and the most high-profile GT contest in the world, the globally renowned Total 24 Hours of Spa, between Thursday, 28th July, and Sunday, 31st July. Official testing at Spa-Francorchamps will take place just over a week from now on Tuesday, 5th July.

Blancpain Endurance Cup Rd3 Paul Ricard HTTT Result:
1st Garage 59 – McLaren 650S GT3
(Rob Bell/Come Ledogar/Shane Van Gisbergen)
2nd AF Corse – Ferrari 488 GT3
(Pasin Lathouras/Michele Rugolo/Pier Guidi)
3rd Belgian Audi Club Team WRT – Audi R8 LMS
(Rodrigo Baptista/Jan Magnussen/Filipe Albuquerque)

Blancpain Endurance Cup Rd3 Paul Ricard HTTT Pro-Am Cup Result:
1st Kessel Racing – Ferrari 488 GT3
(Michael Broniszewski/Alessandro Bonacini/Andrea Rizzoli)
2nd AF Corse – Ferrari 488 GT3
(Duncan Cameron/Davide Rizzo/Matt Griffin)
3rd Barwell Motorsport – Lamborghini Huracan GT3
(Leo Matchitski/Phil Keen/Marco Mapelli)
13th Oman Racing Team – Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3
(Ahmad Al Harthy/Jonny Adam/Devon Modell)

2016 Blancpain Endurance Cup Pro-Am Driver Standings (after Rd3):
9th Ahmad Al Harthy/Jonny Adam/Devon Modell, 30pts

2016 Blancpain Endurance Cup Pro-Am Team Standings (after Rd3):
5th Oman Racing Team powered by Motorbase, 30pts

Source. Marc Orme/Dan Bathie/PM Images

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