European Le Mans Series debutant Ahmad Al Harthy produced an absolutely fantastic performance during the first qualifying session of the 2022 season at Circuit Paul Ricard on Saturday, 16th April, to secure a front-row start in the GTE class for today’s four-hour race in the south of France.
Holding pole position with only two minutes of the session to go, the Oman Racing driver did improve his time further the next time around but just missed out on a dream grid-topping effort by a mere 0.154 seconds in the No.69 Aston Martin Vantage GTE.
Strong and competitive during the pre-event build up throughout race week along with team-mates Sam De Haan and Aston Martin factory driver Marco Sorensen, the three worked hard on the set-up of the car to get it working as well as possible in both qualifying and race trim.
“I’m really happy with our qualifying”, said Al Harthy, “We were very close to being P1 but a front row of the grid start is something great for my first weekend in ELMS. It’s a new format for me, a new car, so I’m happy with my performance and there is so much more to improve on. It’s going to be a long race, so we’re starting in the perfect place on the front row,
“From a teamwork perspective, we’ve all been working a lot to understand the car and understand our race pace. Hopefully everything will go to plan in the race. Once again, I am delighted to have qualified on the front row of GTE – a big thank you to everyone at Oman Racing.”
Beginning the week with two days of very productive testing at the Le Castellet venue on Monday, 11th April, and Tuesday, 12th April, the Oman Racing trio returned to the track on Friday, 15th April, for the first free practice while Al Harthy gained additional track time in the standalone session for Bronze graded drivers – lapping second fastest with a time of 1m55.106 seconds (274.81 km/h).
Following another free practice on Saturday morning, where the No.69 Aston Martin was eighth on the times, GTE qualifying took place early in the afternoon with Al Harthy behind the wheel – each squad’s ‘Bronze’ drivers tasked with qualifying their respective cars for the weekend’s race.
In the battle at the sharp end throughout, the Omani – who is supported by the Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, OQ, Omantel and MHD-ITICS – moved onto pole position with just two minutes to go thanks to a lap of 1m55.008 seconds.
Although slipping down to second shortly after, Al Harthy responded and improved his time with his next effort to dip below the 1m55 seconds barrier but ultimately had to settle for, a nonetheless excellent, second fastest with a lap of 1m54.909 seconds (270.68 km/h).
Source. Marc Orme/Photo. Andrew Lofthouse