Ahmad Al Harthy and Oman Racing team-mate Jonny Adam made a perfect start to their Pro-Am challenge in this year’s Blancpain Endurance Cup by taking a magnificent, and history-making, first class victory in the globe’s biggest GT series during a memorable opening race of 2017 at Monza in Italy.
During three hours of intense endurance racing action at the home of the Italian Grand Prix, the Oman Racing squad – which is engineered by British team TF Sport – delivered an exceptional performance with Al Harthy and Adam starring during their respective stints.
Notably for Muscat racer Al Harthy, the foundation for the sensational maiden victory was his two-hour long double-stint. Taking the wheel of the No.97 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 from the start, he maintained the Pro-Am lead – Adam having qualified on class pole – and although edged back to second place he fought his way back through to the lead after his first pit-stop.
At the end of the second hour, Al Harthy he pitted from the Pro-Am lead and Adam took over driving duties. After the race order settled, Adam held second place with 50 minutes to go but he reeled off some sensational laps and a truly eye-catching stint to close down and pass class leader Andrea Rizzoli in the No.11 Ferrari. Adam eventually took the flag 1.5 seconds clear for a famous win.
“Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable”, said an ecstatic Al Harthy following the race, “To get our first win in Blancpain, at Monza of all places, is so special. It’s such a historic track, a huge venue in European motorsport, and I am so proud of the whole team and everyone who made this possible.
“I did as much as I could in my stints to give Jonny a good car for the final hour, it was so important to be consistent and competitive with the Pros and put the car in the right place. I was exhausted at the end, but as soon as we climbed the podium and I heard the Omani national anthem I forgot all about the tiredness!”
He added: “I want to dedicate this win to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said and also to all of those who have been behind me and supported me from day one, my family and, of course, my incredible sponsors without whom I wouldn’t be on the grid. I must say a big thank you to all at Oman Racing too and the guys from TF Sport who run our car, it’s been an amazing weekend.”
Al Harthy, who is backed by the Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Oman Air, National Bank of Oman, Omantel, Barr Al Jissah and Amouage, made a good getaway at the beginning of Sunday afternoon’s race to maintain the Pro-Am lead from pole and also climb into the outright top six from seventh.
Just behind, though, a huge multi-car accident – which led to a dozen cars being caught-up in the drama – resulted in the race being red flagged almost immediately. Following a 20-minute delay, the action resumed with Al Harthy holding the class lead. Edged back to second before the end of the first hour, he pitted and then re-emerged in second place when the race order balanced out.
Soon moving back into the lead of Pro-Am, the Omani had a 13 second advantage at the halfway point of the encounter but towards the end of hour two the No.11 Ferrari closed in. Al Harthy held position, though, despite being delayed towards the conclusion of his stint by the struggling No.14 Jaguar, and he handed the Aston Martin over to Adam with just under one hour to go.
Adam held second place in Pro-Am, 15th position overall, with around 50 minutes left to run and he produced an outstanding drive to wipe out the 12 second lead now held by the Ferrari. With searing pace, even setting the fastest outright lap of the race, Adam eradicated the advantage and passed for the Pro-Am lead, and victory, with a couple of laps to go. Overall, he took eighth place.
After such a fabulous start to the new Blancpain Endurance Cup season, Oman Racing carries strong confidence into round two of the campaign which will take place over the weekend 13th/14th May at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in the UK.
Blancpain Endurance Cup Rd1 Monza Result:
1st GTR Grasser – Lamborghini
(Christian Engelhart, Andrea Caldarelli, Mirko Bortolotti)
2nd AF Corse – Ferrari
(Alessandro Pier Guidi, Michele Rugolo, Pasin Lathouras)
3rd Mercedes-AMG Team HTP Motorsport – Mercedes
(Franck Perera, Maxi Buhk, Jimmy Eriksson)
8th Oman Racing – Aston Martin (Ahmad Al Harthy/Jonny Adam)
Blancpain Endurance Cup Rd1 Monza Pro-Am Result:
1st Oman Racing – Aston Martin (Ahmad Al Harthy/Jonny Adam)
2nd Kessel – Ferrari
(Andrea Rizzoli/Michael Broniszewski, Matteo Cressoni)
3rd Spirit of Race – Ferrari
(Andrea Bertolini, Niek Hommerson, Louis Machiels)
Blancpain Endurance Cup Pro-Am Driver Standings (after Rd1):
1st Ahmad Al Harthy/Jonny Adam
Blancpain Endurance Cup Pro-Am Team Standings (after Rd1):
1st Oman Racing
Source. Marc Orme/Photo. PM Images/Brecht Decancq