Round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship proved more challenging than expected for Oman Racing with TF Sport on Sunday, 16th April, with Ahmad Al Harthy, Michael Dinan and Charlie Eastwood having to settle for an eighth place result in the 6 Hours of Portimao.
Going into the Portuguese round, the team-mates hoped to mount a push for a stronger finish after Al Harthy had qualified a very competitive fifth fastest in GTE Am, just half a second from pole position – and with the potential for more too with yellow flags spoiling the Omani’s best attempt.
Frustratingly, the performance compared with rival entries in race conditions meant the Aston Martin was always on the back foot. Struggling for pace, despite a great set-up, the team had to be satisfied with a, nonetheless season best, top eight finish after six hours of racing in the Algarve.
Dinan took the wheel for the start of the race at midday local time in Portimao, and although he was challenged initially he maintained fifth. Despite losing some time on lap five, he chipped away to reduce the gap to the No.83 Ferrari and around the 50-minute mark Dinan was able to grab fourth.
Just before the first hour was complete, the opening round of pit-stops began and Dinan emerged in fifth. Midway through hour two he began to come under pressure from the No.54 Ferrari and was soon edged back to sixth. At the second set of pit-stops at the end of hour two, Al Harthy climbed aboard the Aston Martin and emerged in seventh – with one of the leading cars yet to pit.
Determined to try and gain some ground, the Omani – supported by the Oman Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, OQ, Omantel and MHD-ITICS – was also mindful of looking after the car. When the out-of-sequence Porsche eventually made its second stop, Al Harthy re-assumed sixth place.
Later in hour three Al Harthy moved up into fifth position before serving his first pit-stop as the race tipped into its second half. Holding seventh when he rejoined the action, the Omani moved back into sixth a short while later but halfway through his second stint the Aston slipped to seventh and then eighth with the outright pace just not there to extract from the car.
The team’s ‘Pro’ driver Eastwood took over the car with just under two hours of racing to go and after dropping to ninth he reclaimed eighth. Remaining there into the final hour, following the last pit-stop he continued in eighth where he stayed to the chequered flag.
Ahmad Al Harthy:
“We had a perfect strategy, perfect performance from all of the drivers – we all drove perfectly in the race. Unfortunately, though, we were no match for our competitors as we clearly lacked the power we needed to be competitive in Portimao. With no interruptions in the race with Safety Cars, that only magnified the performance difference.
“There are positives, and hopefully the organisers will re-evaluate the performance comparisons between us and our competitors. There’s nothing else we could have done, so hopefully we will be back at Spa in a few weeks’ time with a much better performance. Eighth was the best we could do, we were the best Aston and we couldn’t have climbed any higher. It was out of our hands.”
There are less than two weeks to wait for the third event of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the TotalEnergies 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, which will take place in Belgium on Saturday, 29th April.
Source. Marc Orme
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