Ahmad Al Harthy and Michael Dinan secured an outstanding second place finish for Oman Racing in Road To Le Mans race one at the Circuit de la Sarthe in France on Thursday, 19th August, with a star performance from eighth on the GT3 class grid.
Celebrating a very well deserved podium in the 55-minute evening encounter, which got underway at 19.30 local time, Al Harthy and Dinan now carry great confidence into race two which will take place today, Saturday, 21st August – just a few hours before the famed Le Mans 24 Hours itself begins.
American racer Dinan started Thursday’s race from the fourth row of the GT3 grid, having earlier qualified eighth fastest in the No.95 Aston Martin Vantage GT3, and stormed into the top four on lap one alone before breaking into the podium placings on lap two.
Oman Racing took the lead of GT3 in the mid-race pit-stop, with Al Harthy ultimately bringing the Aston Martin Racing-prepared car to the chequered flag in second place – slipping back from the lead with just three laps to go as a result of some unfortunate slow zones and yellow flag areas.
“What a race – unbelievable!”, said the Omantel, OQ and Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth supported racer, “From P8 to P2, a podium again at Le Mans, what an amazing feeling and to see the flag of Oman flying again here is something very special to me, I am very proud.
“I’m delighted with the way we all performed, Michael did a great job in the opening stint being able to take it up to P2 and then we had a great pit-stop. It was very tough in my stint as there were so many cautions, yellow flags and slow zones which are very difficult to manage at this circuit.”
Al Harthy added: “I want to say thank you to all of my partners who made this happen, and thank you to the Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth for its support and everybody back home who is part of this journey. It’s great to be able to come back racing, and especially at this event with all of the top teams in the world here. It’s a beautiful and amazing feeling to be on the podium.”
Following two practice sessions on Wednesday, 18th August, a pair of 20-minute runs on Thursday morning decided the grid for both races. Dinan took the first session and qualified the Oman Racing car eighth fastest for the opening contest with a time of 3m58.238 (283.19 km/h) seconds.
In session two, Al Harthy rocketed to the top of the times with a first flying lap of 3m58.074 seconds (283.94 km/h) even though compromised by a Ferrari in the final sector. Although edged back to second, the Omani was all set to re-take pole on his final lap of the session but a red flag stoppage with around three minutes to go – while on a faster lap – meant he had to settle for second quickest.
Dinan, of course, took the start of Thursday evening’s race from eighth on the GT3 grid and put together a sensational opening lap. Launching well at the rolling start and swiftly gaining two places, he duly took fifth soon after and roughly a third of the way around the lap he was into fourth spot.
Little more than a lap into the race the American swept past the No.8 Ferrari 488 to move into the podium placings and then moved ahead of the No.2 Porsche 911 GT3 R to grab second place and put Oman Racing firmly in contention for the podium.
With a big gap to make up to the leading Audi R8 of Charles Weerts as the race entered the third tour, part way around the lap the Safety Car was deployed due to one of the LMP3 prototype class cars retiring. Then, at the end of lap four, Dinan and the rest of the GT3 field took the opportunity to serve the mandatory pit-stop while still under Safety Car conditions.
Al Harthy got behind the wheel of the striking black, orange and white No.95 Aston Martin Vantage and a fantastic turnaround in the pits by the AMR mechanics enabled the Omani to leapfrog the Audi and take the lead of the race.
When the action resumed on lap six, Al Harthy continued to lead and improved his pace with each lap of the 13.6-kilometre track. Setting a best GT3 lap of 3m57.551 seconds on lap eight, the second fastest of the race, the next time around the No.8 Ferrari managed to get back ahead into the lead as yellow flag slow zones worked against Al Harthy.
Maintaining second place to the finish on lap 12, after 55 minutes of racing, the result was just reward for a terrific performance and marked the second podium in as many events for Al Harthy – having taken a stunning race victory on his return to the British GT Championship two weeks ago.
Source. Marc Orme