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TOP FIVE FINISH FOR OMAN RACING IN BARCELONA FINALE CONCLUDES PROMISING FIRST SEASON IN BLANCPAIN GT SERIES ‘SILVER CUP’

Fifth position in class for Ahmad Al Harthy and the Oman Racing team during the final race of the Blancpain Endurance Cup season at a hot Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday, 30th September, brought the curtain down on a positive first campaign for the squad in the highly competitive ‘Silver Cup’.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 racer Al Harthy and team-mates Charlie Eastwood and Euan McKay concluded the 2018 season seventh in the Silver Cup standings after a consistent year in which the Omani has made notable improvements against increasingly rapid and professional competition.

Following a strong day of preparation on Saturday, 29th September, all at Oman Racing targeted a healthy conclusion to the Blancpain Endurance season, even with the Spanish venue not suiting the characteristics of the Oman Ministry of Sports Affairs, Oman Air, National Bank of Oman, Omantel, Barr Al Jissah and Amouage liveried car.

Qualifying sixth fastest in Silver with a combined average lap time of 1m45.969 seconds from the three individual sessions, one per driver, Al Harthy then took the opening stint of Sunday afternoon’s race during which he battled closely with some top ‘Pro’ graded drivers.

Climbing into fifth in class early on and then running in sixth as the opening half an hour reached its conclusion, all went smoothly for the Muscat racer during the remainder of the first 60 minutes of action before he handed the car over to McKay for the middle stint.

Likewise, the Scottish driver continued to maintain sixth in Silver when the order settled after the initial round of pit-stops but soon enough the first of several Full Course Yellow cautionary periods was required just before the midway point of the encounter and a second followed soon after.

When the next set of stops took place at around the two hour mark, McKay pitted from an elevated fifth position in Silver but realistic hopes of pushing for more during Eastwood’s stint were dashed by several more cautionary periods which put the Oman Racing entry a lap down. In the end, Eastwood finished a relatively successful, but also frustrating, race fifth in Silver.

“It was a very hot race, quite tiring out there”, said Al Harthy, “Generally, I’m really happy with my performance overall this weekend. In qualifying I was pleased with my pace and we made a massive step forward, although on the combined grid things changed a bit.

“In the opening stint of the race I was trying to keep up with the faster Pro drivers and do the best I could. Barcelona doesn’t suit our car all that well, so it was a challenge and especially midway through the race when the car was still heavy. When it was lighter at the end, things improved for us for sure.”

He added: “Everyone drove perfectly and we kept away from incidents but the Safety Cars didn’t work in our favour at all and we ended up a lap down late on. It’s a real shame as more was possible, but it’s still a good way to finish the season. Big thank you to our incredible sponsors, the fans back home in Oman, all the guys in the team and, of course, my team-mates Euan and Charlie.”

Following on from his memorable Pro-Am title triumph in the Blancpain Endurance Cup last year with then team-mate Jonny Adam, Al Harthy’s seventh place championship finish in the Silver Cup at his first attempt certainly provides a strong platform for whatever follows in 2019.

“I’ve enjoyed this season, it is a big step on from Pro-Am into Silver and sometimes the Silver driver pairings can be as strong as the Pros so it’s a serious challenge”, he commented, “It’s been a learning season for us, and we’ve learnt so much, but our results and overall performance has improved so it’s been a good year from that point of view.”

Provisional Blancpain Endurance Cup Rd5 Barcelona Result:
1st Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP – Mercedes-AMG GT3
(Tristan Vautier/Daniel Juncadella/Raffaele Marciello)
2nd SMP Racing – Ferrari 488 GT3
(Davide Rigon/Mikhail Aleshin/Miguel Molina)
3rd Emil Frey Jaguar Racing – Emil Frey G3 Jaguar
(Alex Fontana/Adrian Zaugg/Mikael Grenier)
21st Oman Racing – Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3
(Ahmad Al Harthy/Euan McKay/Charlie Eastwood)

Provisional Blancpain Endurance Cup Rd5 Barcelona ‘Silver Cup’ Result:
1st Emil Frey Jaguar Racing – Emil Frey G3 Jaguar
(Alex Fontana/Adrian Zaugg/Mikael Grenier)
2nd Ombra Racing – Lamborghini Huracan GT3
(Andrea Rizzoli/Romain Monti/Alex Frassineti)
3rd AKKA ASP Team – Mercedes-AMG GT3
(Jules Szymkowiak/Jack Manchester/Nico Bastian)
5th Oman Racing – Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3
(Ahmad Al Harthy/Euan McKay/Charlie Eastwood)

Final 2018 Blancpain Endurance Cup ‘Silver Cup’ Driver Standings:
7th Ahmad Al Harthy/Euan McKay/Charlie Eastwood, 47pts

Source. Marc Orme/Photo. Jakob Ebrey Photography

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